On Monday July 24, Turkish authorities closed the “Khirbet ah-Joz” humanitarian border crossing, west of the city of Idlib in Syria. This closure follows the capture of the Idlib province and the border crossing with Turkey by the group Tahrir As-Sham, and the retreat of their rival Ahrar As-Sham.
The Khirbet al-Joz crossing is located 36 kilometers west of the city of Idlib, and is specifically used for the crossing of doctors and patients between Turkey and Syria.
The closing of Kirbet al-Joz comes less than a week after Turkey’s announcement of the closure of the “Bab al-Howa” border crossing last Wednesday and Thursday for maintenance purposes.
Overnight on Tuesday 18 – Wednesday 19 July, clashes erupted in the city of Idlib and spread across the province following increased tensions between the two parties. Their relationship has been strained since the January announcement of the dissolution of a number of military units led by Fatah as-Sham (formerly al-Nusra) and the formation of Tahrir as-Sham under the leadership of Hasem al-Shekh, former leader of Ahrar as-Sham.
In a voice message to “The Syrian Voice,” administrator of the Khirbet Al-Joz crossing Abu Mohammad al-Saahily accused Tahrir as-Sham of breaking into and vandalizing the crossing and disgracing the people inside.
Al-Saahily added that “the humanitarian crossing was closed to the movement of both bread and emergency cases,” indicating that the crossing allows a number of premature infants into Turkey daily as well as cases of meningitis, a result of the use of polluted water in Syria. However, the crossing is currently closed to both types of patients.
Al-Saahily pointed out that “Syrian doctors are held in Turkey, therefore disabling the hospitals of the coastal area such as Ain al-Baida and Bernas hospitals.”
Al-Saahily suggested that “the Bab al-Howa and Khirbet al-Joz crossings were like the lungs of the opposition areas, and after the closing of Khirbet al-Joz the areas have none.” Al-Saahily reiterated that nearly ten thousand packages of bread used to enter through Bab al-Howa daily, and nearly 30 thousand through Khirbet al-Joz. However, these imports have now ended and flour has nearly run out in the Idlib province.
For his part, an unnamed source in the “Free” Idlib Health Department said to “The Syrian Voice” that “the effects on the medical sector will not become clear in the hours following the closure, but if this continues then Idlib and the countryside will suffer from the resulting humanitarian and medical conditions.”
As these conditions continue to shake the Idlib province, its citizens are living in “fear and anxiety” from an unknown future surrounding them and from statements made by people in power in the region.
Mohammad Idliby commented to “The Syrian Voice” on the “situation of fear” in the area, saying that “civilians are living in conditions of chaos and instability, although they are unable to express their opinions and feelings in a time when their words might be recorded against them.”
In general, the opposition areas have been greatly affected by the “tightening” policy that Turkey is now taking towards the illegal crossing of Syrians into its lands, as well as the “rationing” of patients after the nation became a destination for Syrians wounded by the war.
The closure of these crossings could mean a “fatal blow” to the civilians of Idlib, especially since “Turkey’s announcement of the Khirbet Al-Joz closure until further notice means years of stagnation,” according to another voice recording by Abu Mohammad Al-Saahily to “The Syrian Voice.”