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Residents fear military escalation by government forces in Syria’s Aleppo

ALEPPO, Syria (North Press) – Residents in the city of al-Bab, northern Syria, fear that the opening of Abu al-Zendin crossing, to the south of the city in an area held by the Syrian government, will allow government forces to escalate their attacks on opposition-held areas after benefiting from this to ease their economic crises.

The city of al-Bab, 30 km from the southern Turkish border, has been under the control of Turkish forces and their affiliated armed opposition factions since 2017.

Late in March, Russia announced that it had reached an agreement with Turkey stipulating the reopening of three crossings between areas held by the Syrian government and areas held by the Turkish-backed armed opposition groups.

The agreement included Saraqeb crossing in the Idlib countryside, Mizanaz crossing in the southern countryside of Aleppo, and Abu al-Zendin crossing southwest of the city of al-Bab in the northern countryside of Aleppo.

Security concerns

Khaled Khatib (a pseudonym), a resident of al-Bab city, said that the opening of the Abu al-Zendin crossing would facilitate the Syrian regime’s communication with leaders of the armed groups to plan to carry out bombings in the area.

Khatib believes that bringing in explosive devices and booby traps will not be difficult as long as the crossing is open.

Ahmed Sa’eid (a pseudonym), a displaced person living in the countryside of Aleppo, said that the matter pushes the regime and its Russian ally once again into a military escalation after it regained its strength.

In late February, the Syrian government sent reinforcements from to the outskirts of the city of al-Bab, east of Aleppo.

In late March, al-Bab and its countryside witnessed several demonstrations in which residents denounced the opening of crossings with the regions of the Syrian government and expressed their total rejection of this.

Syrian activists had launched the hashtag #No_to_open_crossings on Twitter, in which thousands of users expressed their rejection of the agreement.

Government economy

Sa’eid expressed his fear that the entry of goods into government areas would contribute to their economic recovery, which would allow them to contemplate military escalation.

The Syrian pound witnessed a remarkable improvement in its exchange rate against the US dollar following the Russian announcement of the opening of the crossings.

The exchange rate of the Syrian pound in most of the Syrian markets, on Wednesday, was less than 3.600 pounds against one US dollar.

Sa’eid expressed his concern that the opening of the crossings would lead to the introduction of The new 5,000 Syrian pound banknote, similar to the 2,000 Syrian pound banknote, especially after the Turkish lira’s decline.

Since June, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS, formerly al-Nusra Front) and Turkish-backed armed opposition groups have imposed the circulation of the Turkish lira in their areas of control in northern and northwestern Syria.

In March, Haitham Jundi, a Syrian political figure, told North Press that the agreement to open the crossings in northwestern Syria was another Russian attempt to save the Syrian regime.

“The opening of the crossings is a step that will contribute to stopping the collapse of the Syrian pound’s exchange rate. Lavrov seeks to bite into the political solution in the same military way that the Russians used to bite down on the opposition-held areas.”

Coronavirus concern

Residents in the city expressed their fears that the opening of the crossing, along with their economic and military concerns, would contribute to the spread of coronavirus.

Ayman Ahmed (a pseudonym), a displaced person from the countryside of Homs who works in al-Bab National Hospital, said that coronavirus continues to threaten thousands of the city’s residents.

He pointed out that the virus would not have spread widely in the region if the smuggling routes with the regime held areas were closed, despite the closure of the crossings.

The number of coronavirus cases registered in the opposition-held areas reached 21,394 cases, including 19,547 recoveries, and 638 deaths.

Ahmed wondered about the virus’s outbreak with the opening of crossings and the passage of trucks to and from government-held areas.

Reporting by Farouq Hamo

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