Disputes by SNA Factions Over Lucrative Smuggling Corridors in Northern Syria

Credit: (AFP)

According to a recent report by the Syria TV outlet disagreements among Syrian National Army (SNA) factions broke out in the city of Marea, north of Aleppo, over control and revenue sharing from smuggling corridors along the contact lines with the Assad regime and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Military sources revealed tensions between the Levant Front bloc and the 51st Brigade of the Third Corps regarding a corridor on the eastern outskirts of Marea. Similar grievances arose within the Al-Mutasim Division regarding their share of the Tuwais corridor, located between Tuwais and Al-Ghouz villages.

Negotiations between the SNA factions are underway to distribute smuggling profits based on geographical control. Traditionally, the faction overseeing the corridor receives the largest cut, followed by those monitoring the operation from their military guard posts. However, recent disputes stem from the Al-Waqqas Brigade’s management of the Tuwais corridor.

Sources allege the Brigade Commander, Saad Abbas, partnered with Levant Front leader Bashir H. to allocate a portion of the revenue to specific faction leaders while excluding others. The business nets thousands of dollars on a near-daily basis and many factions operating in the area have expressed concerns over the “unfair” distribution of profits.

The Tuwais corridor opened a month ago, replacing the previously closed Sayyid Ali crossing. Disagreements over broker fees, transportation costs, and bribes to Assad regime officers led to the closure of Sayyid Ali.

Rainy and foggy weather facilitates night-time smuggling operations using cars, trucks, and tractors. An anonymous brigade member described the dangers involved but acknowledged the lucrative nature of the work, with wages from a single night’s work often exceeding a typical monthly salary. Cigarettes, diesel, flour, and used solar panels are among the most commonly smuggled goods.

Sources estimate that 500 pallets of merchandise are transported per night, with merchants paying $35 each to both the SNA factions and Assad officers. Transportation and labor costs take another $5 per pallet. Operations are not daily due to weather conditions and disputes.

The Syrian Interim Government’s (SIG) Defense Ministry declined to comment on the practice. Local sources claim the SIG Ministry has failed to control the smuggling scene, which has contributed to the infiltration of Assad, ISIS, and PKK cells, along with bombs and drugs into the region. Civilian casualties and harm to legal trade are also cited as consequences.


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