As Syrian rebels took control of a border post on the other side, the Iraqi army on July 20, 2012 sealed the main border crossing to Syria.
According to a Reuters photographer, the rebels had burned the border post building at Abu Kamal, 300 km west of Baghdad on the Euphrates River highway, in Syria and damaged its cables and electronic equipment.
It is a major trade route across the Middle East.
A group of Syrians including youths and women were seen moving around the building. The large picture of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad hanging on the building was burnt down.
However, Syrian border guards and army fighters were not seen. No civilians were found trying to enter into Iraq. There was no fighting and Friday prayers could be heard in a nearby Syrian mosque.
Early today, around 40 Iraqi soldiers and a provincial commander arrived at the border crossing to reinforce security.
According to a senior Iraqi official, Iraq had sealed strategic points along its 680 km border with Syria, tightened security, and was prepared to receive refugees coming into Iraq.
A few days ago, on Tuesday, Iraq exhorted thousands of its citizens living in Syria to return home as violence escalated in neighboring Damascus. More than 2000 Iraqis in Syria had in the past two days registered for repatriation at the al-Waleed border crossing, according to sources.
Although the last of the American troops have already left Iraq, the nation itself is not free from violence and sectarian strife yet. During a single week in June 2012, more than 150 Iraqis were killed and hundreds were injured in the deadliest sectarian violence in nearly two years, according to New York Times.
The security situation is comparatively better today in comparison to sectarian violence of early post war years which killed tens of thousands in 2006-2007. The sectarian violence within Iraq forced thousands of Iraqis to leave Iraq for neighboring Syria who are now returning to Iraq since the Syrian uprising.
Most of the western governments do not consider Iraq a safe place to travel. They have issued warnings against “all but essential travel to the whole of Iraq, with the exception of the Kurdistan region, where there are no travel restrictions in place”.