UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres celebrated the extension of a “humanitarian” border crossing at Bab Al Hawa, on July 10th, as a “lifeline for millions of people” – many Syrians would rather describe it as a “lifeline” for Al Qaeda.
On the 15th July I visited Jurin, a village to the north of the Hama governorate and only 5km from the Syrian allied military frontlines with the Al Qaeda-dominated armed groups controlling Idlib, north-west Syria.
We arrived at around 9 am to the boom of mortar and rocket fire from the Jabal az Zawiya mountain that is under control of Turkish-backed armed groups. Jurin is in the Al Ghab plains at the foot of two mountain ranges and is an easy target for the elevated terrorist positions, occupying Jabal az Zawiya.
On June 20th, a three-year-old child, Massa Akram Saleh, was murdered by the armed groups who targeted her family home, injuring her father and brother, five-year-old Akram Saleh, whose body was lacerated by shrapnel wounds. Massa was rushed to Al Sqeilbiyyeh hospital, a journey of one hour, but later died. Her brother and father are still receiving treatment. Massa’s grandfather told me:
If this had been a child of the militants, the UN would have made a big case of it. Hundreds of children have died in our area but it is as if nobody died at all”
The grandfather describes a daily deluge of attacks from the Turkey-assisted armed groups, targeting the triangle of Jurin, Al Safafeh and Zkereh. He begs the Syrian forces to push the militants at least as far as the M4 highway and away from the region, to bring an end to the ceaseless aggression.
This is an aggression that apparently is not worth mentioning in UN reports on the cross border “humanitarian” activity. He thanks the Syrian Arab Army for doing everything they can to keep the extremist groups at bay.
While the grandfather is talking to me, a mother carrying a baby, hugging her children, is cowering and weeping in the background as the shells continue to fall. Next to her is Massa’s grandmother who cannot move without her walking frame.
One shell had hit the outer wall of the house just before we arrived, another had blown a two meter crater in the garden behind the extended family home. A third exploded five meters from where I was standing while I interviewed a second family member, Ghaith Ghazi Saleh. He told me:
We are being targeted on a daily basis with shells from Az Zawiya mountain. During the last two or three years we have seen Turkish convoys coming into the area not more than 2km from our farmlands, they prevent us from cultivating our farmlands [..] the artillery that bombards us is Turkish. The coordinates are provided by the terrorists.”
Saleh informed me that the armed groups target schools, residential areas and civilian infrastructure. They even targeted a funeral procession and a condolences gathering two years ago, according to Saleh. He describes the Turkish and armed group destruction of the land. Saleh talks of the intensification of militant aggression to target Russian/Syrian humanitarian corridors that are an effort to allow Syrian civilians to safely escape the armed occupation of north-west Syria.
This is something that I had previously witnessed in Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta as civilians attempted to flee to the safety of Syrian Arab Army humanitarian collection points, they were cruelly shelled or sniped by the occupying extremist groups, furious that their human shields were evading them.
US-manufactured weapons in the hands of Al Qaeda affiliates
It is no secret that the CIA Timber Sycamore operation supplied US-manufactured weapons to “moderate” extremist groups that mysteriously ended up in the hands of terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda.
Weapons that included the TOW anti-tank missiles that are liberally used by the Idlib armed groups against civilian targets which is an undeniable war crime according to investigative journalist, Dilyana Gaytandzhieva, who has specialised in uncovering the illegal arms trade in Syria.
In Gaytandzhieva’s latest investigation, she reveals that the Pentagon is “buying $ 2.8 billion worth of weapons for conflict zones around the world. Most of the weapons are destined for Syria.” Videos and images released by the armed groups clearly show that Hayat Tahrir As Sham (HTS) an Al Qaeda offshoot have been supplied with US TOW missiles in Idlib.
Unexploded #US TOW rocket in #Jurin #Idlib borders today. “Humanitarian aid” enables the supply of these weapons to #AlQaeda to kill #Syrian civilians. When the #UN sheds crocodile tears for “humanitarian” crisis, it is enabling US regime sanctioned terrorism. @dgaytandzhieva pic.twitter.com/5Oliw8g7oj
— vanessa beeley (@VanessaBeeley) July 15, 2021
During my visit to Jurin, I was shown a number of weapons that had been used against civilian infrastructure and residential areas. They included a 155mm Turkish Army artillery shell and an unexploded US-origin TOW missile. According to residents, Turkey is supplying the armed groups with incendiary missiles which are being used to torch farmland and agricultural crops, again a familiar tactic to starve civilians and force them to leave their land. I was shown fields that were blackened and burned as evidence of this barbaric practice.
It must raise the question – how do these weapons enter Idlib? Press TV journalist, Serena Shim, revealed in 2013 that World Food Programme (WFP) “humanitarian” aid trucks were being used to smuggle ISIS terrorists and weapons into Syria via the Turkish border crossings.
Shortly after Shim reported on this nefarious activity, she died in a suspicious car accident after being threatened by Turkish authorities. 2020 Nobel Peace Laureate WFP still has a presence and involvement in Bab Al Hawa.
In 2021 the official border crossings have been reduced down to one, Bab Al Hawa. A Russian UN representative statement informs us that:
The UN still has no presence in Idlib de-escalation zone which is controlled by international terrorists and fighters. It’s not a secret that the terrorist groups control certain areas of the de-escalation zone and use the UN humanitarian aid as a tool to exert pressure on [the] civil population and openly make profit from such deliveries.”
Turkish mobster Sedat Peker, former ally to President #Erdogan, revealed he shipped arms, military supplies, drones, vehicles to al-Nusra front in #Syria at the request of #Sadat, Turkish contractor run by Erdogan’s former chief military advisor Adnan Tanriverdi. pic.twitter.com/AdqUxSyVVO
— Abdullah Bozkurt (@abdbozkurt) May 30, 2021
In May, Sedat Peker, a gangster and former aide of Turkish President Recep Erdogan exposed the trafficking of weapons and vehicles from Turkey to Al Qaeda by a contractor called SADAT that was run by Erdogan’s former military advisor.
Who controls Bab Al Hawa?
According to an Al Monitor article in May 2020, HTS seize at least 10% of the ‘humanitarian” aid entering Bab Al Hawa. HTS benefit from illicit trade of UN-supplied equipment and aid and have a monopoly over the processing of oil stolen by the US Coalition and proxies in occupied North-East Syria via their lucrative WATAD operation.
The HTS warlords make an estimated $130 million per month from this criminal merchanting of Syrian resources and UN “aid” while imposing heavy taxes and “customs fees” on civilians to supplement their dwindling foreign assistance.
Syrian analyst, Ibrahim Mohammad, highlighted a May 2020 report in Amjad Media, a known Nusra Front (Al Qaeda) media outlet that revealed the establishment of a military “unified operations room” in Bab Al Hawa which included Turkish military officers and HTS fighters. In other words, an Al Qaeda central command supported by NATO member state, Turkey.
Turkey is embedded in Idlib to support Al Qaeda and target Syrian civilians
Nine months ago a Turkish convoy entered Quqfin to the east of Jurin and established a military observation base. According to the Syrian military personnel I spoke to in Jurin, this Turkish base is providing surveillance and coordinates for HTS enabling them to target not military installations but civilian infrastructure, schools, farmland and homes. Turkey is enabling war crimes and committing them, according to Syrian residents in Jurin.
Zeyzoun power plant, Turkish-backed industrial theft of Syrian infrastructure
In May 2020 the former Syrian Ambassador to the UN, Dr Bashar Al Jaafari, detailed the Turkish sponsored theft of the largest power station in north-west Syria, Zeyzoun power plant. The plant supplied electricity to the Al Ghab region where Jurin is located, Hama, Latakia, Tartous (on the coast) and to Idlib.
The plant was destroyed by the armed groups under Turkish control prior to plundering the remains and transporting them to Turkey via the Bab Al Hawa “humanitarian” crossing. This left the Al Ghab area with extended electricity outages which are exacerbated by the US direct and proxy occupation of Syrian oil resources in the North East. Destruction of essential civilian infrastructure is, again, a war crime.
Various groups have occupied Zeyzoun since 2015 but the dominant warlord is still HTS or Al Qaeda. However, according to a field source at the time of the dismantlement and destruction, it was members of the salafist Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) that brought engineering equipment and machinery to Zeyzoun to dismember the plant for scrap and revenue.
The same group had been accused of theft of electrical transformers and agricultural crops to trade and provide income as their financial backing had largely dried up. The power plant comprised three gas generators each with a capacity of 128 megawatts, powered by gas and fuel. The following is a video of the final demolition of the power plant by the TIP:
Combined with the US Coalition illegal occupation of fuel resources, the damages sustained by the electricity and energy sectors in Syria and sanctions have devastatingly impacted on the ability of the Syrian state to provide electricity and power to civilians. This is a deliberate policy by the US/UK alliance to collectively punish the Syrian people and to coerce them into opposition to the Syrian government and Presidency. The destruction of Zeyzoun alone will need an estimated $ 450 million to restore.
The NATO-member-state extremist proxies have deliberately destroyed and looted Syrian infrastructure in every region they have occupied, this is not coincidence. In October 2015, the US Coalition directly bombed the Aleppo power station plunging the region into darkness.
This sadistic tactic had been employed previously in Iraq in 1991 and is ongoing today with the ISIS destruction of electrical power grids and stations – actions by a terrorist group that the US has empowered, equipped and trained despite it being the false pretext for the US/UK/EU military footprint in the Middle East. It is a major part of the psychological war being waged against the Syrian people to bring them to heel and to force “regime change.”
Why did Russia sanction the 6-month extension for the Bab Al Hawa crossing?
Russia and Syria have historically opposed the UN “aid’ runs via Turkey for reasons that become obvious when considering the benefits for Al Qaeda. Many were surprised that Russia in the end approved the 6 month extension. However, there is a promised “substantive” UNSG report into the Cross Border Mechanism transparency which will be of concern to the US Coalition and Turkey as Russia will presumably be gathering evidence to prove that much of the aid is destined for Al Qaeda and to sustain the war against the Syrian government.
I believe Russia took this decision to prevent US accusations of belligerence post the Biden, Putin summit in Geneva while hoping to ensure that terrorist sponsorship by NATO member states is fully exposed and that those involved should be held accountable for the resulting war crimes.
Many Syrians, however, including those suffering daily attacks in Jurin and the other frontline villages will deem this decision a political one which will have dire consequences for their communities. This is another example of how this externally fomented and sustained war has impacted so horrifically upon the Syrian people, leaving nobody untouched by tragedy and loss.
Bab Al Hawa is not a lifeline for the Syrian civilians of Jurin
One thing is clear from my recent visit to the Idlib battle frontlines – the Bab Al Hawa border crossing is not the “humanitarian” lifeline as described by US, UK representatives and aligned officials at the UN. For these civilians, it represents the perpetual threat of death or injury, the destruction of their livelihood and a life of deprivation, bloodshed and fear.
Western media is still amplifying the alleged “war crimes” of Syrian and Russian forces battling to liberate Syrian territory from the clutches of terrorist groups that would massacre the residents of Jurin in an instant if they could break through Syrian and Russian defences.
Two days after my visit, during the night of the 17th July, eleven civilians were injured by HTS shelling, including one child. This is the reality of this war, never explored by the NATO-aligned media outlets and “humanitarian” agencies who seek only to demonise the Syrian government and to “disappear” these inconvenient Syrians who expose the moral vacuum of their Syria narratives.
- First published at Off-Guardian.
This content originally appeared on Dissident Voice and was authored by Vanessa Beeley.