A large protest against al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) took place at the al-Ghazzawiyya crossing that links Greater Idlib with the Turkish-occupied area of Afrin.
Hundreds of civilians gathered near al-Ghazzawiyya in the morning of April 23 to condemn the group’s management of the vital crossing.
“The al-Ghazawiya crossing in western Aleppo witnessed a protests by civilians from the villages of the western countryside of Aleppo and Idlib as a result of HTS’ practices, which is blackmailing the people by taking taxes from the poor and displaced moving back and forth,” Abu Mujahid al-Halabi, an activist, wrote on Twitter.
The activist also shared a video of the protest showing the locals chanting “Syria is free, free … al-Julani [HTS’ general commander] get out.”
احتجاجات من قبل المدنيين من قرى ريف حلب الغربي وادلب في معبر الغزاوية غربي حلب نتيجة ممارسات الهيئة وابتزاز الناس باخذ الضرائب من الفقراء والنازحين ذهابا وايابا https://t.co/L40CigHkdc pic.twitter.com/uKrvjGi080
— M . Talha |أبو مجاهد الحلبي (@mahmoodtalha22) April 23, 2020
Last month, HTS’ government closed all crossings with the Turkish-occupied areas under the pretext of preventing the COVID-19 outbreak. Within the next few weeks, all the crossings were reopened. Nevertheless, the group implemented strict limitations that angered the locals.
HTS faced a similar backlash last week when it decided to open a crossing with government-held areas near the city of Saraqib in south Idlib.
The terrorist group maintains a tight grip on Greater Idlib’s crossings as well as smuggling routes. Transportation’s fees and trafficking form a large part of the group’s income.