The city of Idlib staged a general strike on Tuesday (October 10th) that included both public and private sector workers at the request of the region's dignitaries and leading merchants, activists told Diyaruna.
The strike was called after an incident in which three merchants who own a gold shop were robbed and murdered, and was staged as a protest against the way the Tahrir al-Sham alliance maintains security in the city.
Inside Idlib, activists said, kidnappings, theft, killing, protection rackets and extortion are rampant and are not met with any deterrence from the extremist alliance, which is dominated by the former al-Nusra Front (ANF).
On Monday evening, three gold merchants were killed by a gang inside their shop near the Shuaib mosque in the centre of Idlib, local media activist Musab Assaf told Diyaruna.
The three have been named as Ayman Abdul-Moein Qawsara and his two sons, Abdul-Moein and Issam, while his third son, Radwan, was seriously wounded and was transported to a hospital for treatment.
The killers made off with the contents of the shop, which consisted of five kilogrammes of gold, $12,000 and four million Syrian pounds ($7,760).
According to eyewitnesses who were in the area where the incident took place, no one heard gunshots, Assaf said, which indicates the use of silencers.
The getaway car was identified as a Kia taxi from a video taken by surveillance cameras, which showed four masked gunmen driving away from the scene.
Call for general strike
The day after the incident, influential figures in the city, including dignitaries and leading merchants, called for a general strike to denounce the lawlessness that has prevailed since Tahrir al-Sham put its hand on all security headquarters.
"It has clearly failed to maintain security and is letting gangs roam and wreak havoc in the region undeterred," Assaf said, "which has led to the proliferation of shop and home burglaries and car theft, in addition to kidnapping for ransom."
A spontaneous demonstration broke out following the funeral of the three gold merchants, in which signs were raised denouncing Tahrir al-Sham’s negligence and demanding the right to protection.
Some speculated that Tahrir al-Sham has been allowing the lawlessness to continue in order to later impose its control as the only solution, Assaf said.
Meanwhile, he said, "security patrols" conducted by the group seek only to apprehend and detain its opponents, both individuals and rival groups.
"A number of merchants and residents tried to form special security teams to protect homes, shops and property, but the alliance stopped them," Assaf said.
A number of youth who had volunteered for this task were led away for questioning, he added, and were not released "until they pledged not to do this again".