Russian-Turkish Preparations for Opening of Abu al-Zindeen Crossing: Between Regime and Opposition

The Sultan Murad Division briefly reopened the crossing in September 2022 before closing it again due to public outrage.

Preparations are underway between the Russian and Turkish sides in the northeastern countryside of Aleppo to reopen the Abu al-Zindeen crossing, which separates the areas controlled by opposition factions backed by Ankara and those under the control of the Syrian regime.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted sources stating that Russian forces and their Turkish counterparts are preparing to open the Abu al-Zindeen crossing near the city of al-Bab in Aleppo’s countryside in the next few days, adding that Russian forces have brought reinforcements to the area.

Activists from the city of al-Bab told Al-Modon that a meeting was held on Thursday between Turkish and Russian forces near the crossing area, but noted that information so far is scarce and ambiguous about whether an agreement to open it was reached.

They added that current data indicate Russian forces intend to enter the crossing area from the opposition factions’ side, which led to residents gathering and heading to the area to prevent them from doing so.

On Tuesday, groups of demonstrators, residents, and armed members prevented a Russian military delegation from entering the National Army’s areas in al-Bab, accompanied by a Turkish military patrol and another from the United Nations.

The demonstrators searched the Turkish patrol cars to ensure no Russian members were inside, preventing their entry into opposition-controlled areas. Meanwhile, two demonstrations took place in central al-Bab and the Bab al-Salama border crossing with Turkey to express their rejection of the Turkish army’s attempt to bring Russians into the area.

The Abu al-Zindeen crossing was established in the second half of 2017, following ISIS’s defeat in the Aleppo countryside and the subsequent division of the group’s territory between the Syrian regime, which took control of a large part of eastern Aleppo governorate, and the opposition, which took control of al-Bab and parts of Tadef during Operation Euphrates Shield, supported by the Turkish army. The crossing is located on the main road between Aleppo and al-Bab.

Over the years, the crossing has become a humanitarian corridor where most prisoner exchanges between the regime and opposition occur under the supervision of Turkey and Russia, and is also a well-known smuggling route for goods and commodities such as medicines, tobacco, narcotics, and cars. The Sultan Murad Division, closely aligned with Turkey, held influence over the crossing and later became a key part of the Tha-Eroon li al-Tahrir and the Second Corps of the National Army.

The Sultan Murad Division briefly reopened the crossing in September 2022 before closing it again due to public outrage.

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