ALEPPO /Syria/, September 20. /TASS/. Anti-Assad terror groups in the Idlib Governorate in northern Syria are not letting locals out of the territories controlled by the government. The Abu al-Duhur checkpoint for the withdrawal of civilian population and rebels wishing to lay down arms, that opened a few days ago after a long break, is empty, said Syrian Army Brigadier General Nabil Abdullah, who is responsible for organizing the humanitarian corridor, when speaking to journalists.
"According to the intelligence service, a great number of people want to leave this area, but terrorist groups located in Idlib are stonewalling the operation of the humanitarian corridor. The roads leading to the checkpoint have been blocked, and people are prohibited from leaving the area under the threat of being shot. In fact, the militants are hiding behind civilians, using them as human shields," the Syrian general said.
The Abu al-Duhur checkpoint was opened on September 13 after a long break — it had operated from March until December 2018. At that time, village elders acted as intermediaries. The re-opening was carried out at the initiative of the Russian Reconciliation Center for the Opposing Sides in close cooperation with Damascus officials.
"The checkpoint is fully ready for operation. Our army medics set up a medical station there. Buses for transporting internally displaced persons to their places of residence have also been provided. Besides, the Center has more than 3 tonnes of humanitarian aid ready for people in distress," Andrei Kharlamov, a representative for the Center, told reporters. He said that the agreement to renew the corridor’s operation was reached, but at the last minute, the militants refused to let the civilians out.
According to the Center, almost 45,000 people have left the Idlib de-escalation zone since March 4, 2018. They took about 4,700 transport vehicles and almost 55,000 head of cattle with them.
Four de-escalation zones were established in Syria in accordance with the May 2017 deal reached at negotiations in Astana (renamed as Nur-Sultan) by representatives of Russia, Iran and Turkey. In 2018, three of these zones were transferred under Damascus’ control. The fourth zone, located in the Idlib Governorate and parts of the neighboring Latakia, Hama and Aleppo Governorates, is still not controlled by the government. Terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra (outlawed in Russia) seized a large chunk of that zone.