A new wave of protests forced al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) to close its newly-established crossing with government-held areas.
The crossing, which links the HTS-held town of Maaret Elnaasan and the government-held town of Mizanaz in western Aleppo, was opened in the afternoon of April 30. HTS’ security forces opened live fire at dozens of locals who attempted to block a road leading to the crossing. Several civilians were wounded as a result.
One of the civilians, Saleh Marei, died of wounds late on the same day. This provoked a wave of protests against HTS in different parts of Idlib.
In an attempt to contain the situation, HTS released an official statement announcing that work at the crossing will be “suspended” right away.
“We reject the targeting of any civilian gathering with the aim of dispersal or intimidation, we also promise to hold those who dared to open fire accountable, these are not our morals, nor our standards,” the statement reads.
Despite HTS’ concession, a series of protests against the terrorist group were held in different parts of Greater Idlib on May 1.
The HTS desperation to open the crossing indicates that it is going through a rough financial crisis. The recent Syrian Arab Army (SAA) operations have apparently drained a serious part of the group’s resources.
According to some activists, HTS will likely attempt to reopen the crossing once the situation in Greater Idlib becomes calm once again. The group already hinted at this in its statement, claiming that many farmers, workers and traders in the region want a crossing with government-held areas.