Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) has seized the last border crossing between Syria and Iraq controlled by the Syrian government after security forces withdrew, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said on Thursday.
Iraqi officials said Iraqi security forces had also withdrawn from their side of the crossing known as as al-Waleed in Iraq and al-Tanf in Syria. The crossing is in Syria’s Homs province, where Islamic State on Wednesday seized the historic city of Palmyra from government forces.
It was not immediately clear when Islamic State took the site.
An Islamic State fighter contacted by Reuters confirmed the group had taken control of the crossing, which is 150 miles drive from Palmyra, known as Tadmur in Arabic.
Islamic State also controls a border crossing between Syrian province of Deir al-Zor and the Iraqi province of Anbar, while a border crossing between the two countries in north-eastern Syria is controlled by a Kurdish militia, the YPG.‘
Islamic State has declared a cross-border “caliphate” in the territory it controls in Syria and Iraq.
Islamist rebels on Friday overran a hospital in north-west Syria where at least 150 regime forces and dozens of civilians were trapped for nearly a month, Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Al-Nusra Front, which is al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, and other factions “have taken complete control of Jisr al-Shughur hospital”.
A priest of the Syriac Catholic Church in the western Syrian city of Homs was kidnapped along with one of his colleagues, the NGO l’Oeuvre d’Orient told AFP on Friday.
Father Jacques Mourad was seized with another Christian originating from Aleppo, who was helping the priest on Thursday.
“The priest was kidnapped by three masked people in the early afternoon at his Mar Elian Monastery in Qaryatayn, while he was preparing to welcome an expected influx of refugees from Palmyra,” said the NGO.
The Syrian Observatory confirmed that “two men, at least one of them a priest,” were kidnapped by armed men “near Qaryatayn, in the Homs province”.
Father Mourad succeeded the Italian Jesuit priest Paolo Dall’Oglio as the head of the Mar Moussa Monastery, which is linked to Mar Elian.
The Jesuit priest has been missing for nearly two years after being kidnapped in Syria’s northern Aleppo province.
The NGO said that Father Mourad worked to foster inter-religious dialogue, and worked with both Christians and Muslims.