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After controversy and repression threats… HTS postpones Saraqib crossing’s opening

HTS' members preventing protesters from reaching Bab al-Hawa crossing on the border with Turkey in northern rural Idlib - 20 December 2019 (Enab Baladi)

HTS' members preventing protesters from reaching Bab al-Hawa crossing on the border with Turkey in northern rural Idlib - 20 December 2019 (Enab Baladi)

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The opposition faction of Hay’ at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) which largely controls Idlib province, has postponed the opening of the commercial crossing between Saraqib and Sarmin cities, in the eastern countryside of Idlib amid popular rejections.

Enab Baladi’s correspondent in Idlib reported today, on 18 April, that despite HTS’ attempts to forcibly disperse demonstrations against the opening of the crossing, public pressure forced it to be delayed.

Meanwhile, HTS threatened to arrest a number of activists and journalists who were demonstrating on the road between Saraqib and Sarmin cities in the eastern countryside of Idlib.

These threats came after news began to surface yesterday about HTS opening a commercial crossing with the Syrian regime’s forces.

Early this morning, a vehicle belonging to HTS loaded with armed militants inside intercepted Enab Baladi‘s correspondent along with some activists and journalists and threatened to arrest them.

HTS also forced them to stay away from the area between Sarmin and Saraqib cities.

Popular rejection to the crossing

Emad Eddin Mujahid, the director of media affairs in HTS, confirmed through a Telegram group, that includes several media figures, the intention of HTS to open a trade crossing with the Syrian regime forces.

However, HTS decision to open the crossing was refused by several residents and activists in the area, as several statements were released refusing the decision, while a number of activists called for taking the streets and demonstrating peacefully on the road between Sarmin and Saraqib cities against the opening of the crossing.

The statements expressed fear that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic would be transmitted from the regime’s controlled-areas to the opposition-held regions, prompting the North Free Doctors Syndicate to warn against the opening of the commercial crossing considering it a threat to the “health security” in the region.

A statement by the North Free Doctors Syndicate warning against opening the crossing between Saraqib and Sarmin

A statement by the North Free Doctors Syndicate warning against opening the crossing between Saraqib and Sarmin

HTS clarifying its decision

On the other hand, HTS has justified through its media platforms the decision of opening the crossing to the decline of commercial activity in Idlib province especially after the recent military campaign launched by the Russian-backed Syrian regime northwest Syria, “causing tens of thousands of people to lose their jobs, livelihoods, and lands.”

HTS added in its statement that many traders requested the reopening of the commercial crossing between the Sarmin-Saraqib road. The large population of Idlib province “does not live on an island cut off from the means and needs of life,” according to HTS’ statement.

HTS considered the previously mentioned reasons an urgent factor to examine and handle these considerations; however, it confirmed that the revolution’s call for a complete prohibit on any dealings with the criminal regime, and that is undebatable except in cases of coercion and necessity.

HTS added that its decisions of allowing commercial trade with the regime controlled-areas depend on the current urgent conditions and not on final provisions for the interest of the liberated areas.

HTS’ statement demanded that such popular attitudes are better directed to refuse the Russian-Turkish joint patrols allowing the Russian occupier into the liberated areas without resistance.”

It is worth mentioning that Saraqib has witnessed a fluid situation in which many factions and the regime’s forces controlled the city alternately.

On 7 February, Saraqib was held under the control of the regime forces, then the factions launched a counter-attack, in which they managed to restore the city, on 27 of last February; nevertheless, the regime imposed its control on it on 3 of last March.

Later on, a Russian-Turkish ceasefire agreement was declared on 5 March, which stated for conducting joint patrols on the international highway Aleppo –Lattakia (M4).

 

 

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