Lebanon-Syria border crossing to reopen after five years
Lebanon and Syria said on Thursday they will reopen a border crossing closed five years ago, in another sign of the Syrian regime's increasing control over its territory.
The crossing, called al-Qaa in Lebanon and Jussiyeh in Syria, was closed in 2012 as fighting raged between President Bashar al-Assad's forces and rebel fighters seeking his overthrow.
Assad's regime has since reclaimed most of the territory once held by the rebels, thanks to a Russian military campaign in support of his forces and deep divisions among the rebels.
Militants from the Islamic State group had moved into the border area but were pushed out in offensives by regime forces in Syria and the Lebanese army and militant group Hizballah on the other side of the frontier.
Ceremonies were held on Thursday on both sides of the al-Qaa/Jussiyeh crossing, which is set to re-open on Friday morning.
It was the only one of the five crossings between Lebanon and Syria that was permanently closed by the war.
The head of Lebanon's General Security agency, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, said the re-opening of the crossing was a moment for celebration after it was closed by "terrorism that targeted the entire region".
The mainly Christian al-Qaa area in Lebanon was targeted several times in cross-border attacks, including suicide bombings in June last year that killed five people.
The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.
The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.