By Oliviero Reusser
Idlib - The deputy director of the Bab al-Hawa crossing, a vital border point from Syria's Idlib province into southern Turkey, Abdul Razzaq Salem Abboud, has been accidentally shot dead at an Ahrar al-Sham checkpoint near the crossing in Syria. The border crossing is a lifeline into opposition-held greater Idlib; especially during the recently concluded Ramadan, thousands of Syrian refugees living in Turkey crossed into Syria to spend time with their families who stayed in the country. The Bab al-Hawa crossing is administered by the group Ahrar al-Sham and the respective turkish authorities.
The deputy director was travelling back to the crossing with its director, Abu Firas, and passed by a first checkpoint. The fighters manning the checkpoint later, in a hurry, when they noticed he passed without them checking him, opened fire and killed him. It is unclear why exactly the personnel did not check their car; several unconfirmed reports indicate that there was an uneasiness and uncertainty due to tensions and a possible coup attempt among the leadership of the Ahrar al-Sham units manning the border crossing. There were also reports that a car bomb was heading the way of the crossing and the deputy director was shot accidentally in an attempt to stop it; this could also not be confirmed.
Idlib province in general and areas that have the presence of armed men belonging to the various factions has become very insecure, as IED attacks, assassinations and similar happen daily. This is a situation that can be observed in many of the opposition-held areas in Syria.
In the evening of the 3rd of July, several Ahrar al-Sham linked twitter and telegram accounts reacted to the event. The twitter account of @Jihad_AlShami, released a reaction to the event by the director of the crossing and the official Ahrar spokesman, Mohammed Abu Zaid. The twitter account uses the same image as the official Ahrar twitter, but it is unknown what affiliation it exactly has.
The statement posted in the can be summarised as follows. According to the spokesman, the local Ahrar security guards were informed of a car bomb heading their way near the Bab al-Hawa crossing, causing them to tighten their security. When the car of Abdul Razzaq did not get stopped and he drove past the checkpoint, one of the members of the security force opened fire, wounding the deputy director, which eventually led to his death. He also said that Ahrar al-Sham takes full responsibility for the incident.
It is likely that this incident happened within a time of heightened activity and tensions within the fighters responsible for guarding the crossing. For the occasion of Eid al-Fitr and Ramadan generally, many people crossed the border, including important political and social figures; it is likely that a major opposition figure might have been the target of the reported SVBIED.