April 1, 2015 / 11:57 AM / 5 years ago

Jordan shuts border crossing with Syria after fighting

AMMAN (Reuters) - Jordan said it had temporarily closed its border crossing with Syria on Wednesday because of violence on the other side of the frontier, a move it described as a precautionary measure.

The monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had reported heavy clashes between insurgents and Syrian government forces near the Nasib crossing earlier on Wednesday after insurgents encircled the area.

Syria’s state news agency SANA, citing a source in the foreign ministry, said Syria held Jordan responsible for the social and economic impact of the closure, which had blocked traffic. It was not the first time the crossing had been closed since the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011.

Sanctions-hit Damascus relies on the crossing to get essential goods from Jordanian businesses. It also exports some agricultural and textile goods that provide it with foreign currency.

Situated near the Jordanian border, Syria’s southern province of Deraa is a vital battleground. The rebel-held Nasib town next to the crossing came under heavy Syrian air force bombardment on Tuesday, witnesses and the Observatory said. It said the insurgents included Islamist rebel factions.

A Jordanian official who requested anonymity said the authorities closed the crossing after several mortars rounds fell late on Tuesday into an empty yard on the Jordanian side of the crossing. They told employees not to come to work.

Two truck drivers said Syrian authorities had evacuated most of their staff on the border on Tuesday.

Anti-government insurgents, who control large stretches of territory in the countryside in southern Syria, have made progress in recent weeks. On March 25 they seized the historic town of Bosra al-Sham from Syrian forces.

Traffic through the border crossing has fallen dramatically from pre-crisis levels, when it served as a major transit route for hundreds of trucks a day transporting goods between Turkey and the Gulf.

It remains the only official border crossing between the two countries. Refugees have entered through a series of unofficial crossings along the border.

Additional reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Larry King

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