Airstrike destroys southern Idlib police station: ‘there will be chaos’

 The Hass Free Police station on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Taiseer Abu Mohammed.

A single strike by unidentified warplanes destroyed an opposition police station serving 18,000 residents in rebel-held southern Idlib province on Saturday, critically injuring two personnel and sparking worries of “chaos” in the absence of a working police force.

If the police stop their work, there will be chaos,” Taiseer Abu Mohammed, a member of the Local Council in Hass, where the station is located, told Syria Direct on Sunday. “Traffic will be paralyzing and the number of thefts will increase.”

Before Saturday’s airstrike, Hass, a town 46km south of Idlib city, was home to a branch of the rebel Free Police operating in rebel-held parts of Idlib and Aleppo provinces. The force is made up of defected regime police officers who organized independent police stations and directorates after 2011.

Police officers based out of the Hass station control traffic on public streets, guard schools and hospitals and handle cases of theft and respond to emergencies.

After the bombing, “our police car and motorcycles are no longer operating and we are no longer handling citizens’ complaints at the station,” said Abu Ali.

 A destroyed police van. Photo courtesy of Free Idlib Police.

The missile that struck the Hass Police Station on Saturday destroyed “everything used to deliver the best services to citizens,” said Hassan Abu Ali, a media spokesman at Hass Police Station.

The strike destroyed all of the station’s equipment and vehicles, including a police car, five motorcycles, a laptop, a satellite internet receiver, a camera and a laser printer, he said. Roman ruins located 500 meters from the station were also bombed on Saturday.

Both Abu Ali and council member Abu Mohammed told Syria Direct that Saturday’s bombings were from Russian warplanes, while some pro-opposition news sites have accused the regime. Syria Direct could not independently verify either claim.

Abu Ali was at work in the station when the missile hit. He recalls a huge explosion before “the building collapsed on more than one side,” he told Syria Direct. Rubble fell on top of him and 15 other officers, injuring his shoulder and temporarily blinding him.

After partially recovering, Abu Ali rescued fellow officers from under the debris until ambulances arrived at the scene and transported them to the hospital.

“Some have mild bruises while others have more critical injuries,” he said.

“One officer had to have his kidney and parts of his intestines removed due to his injuries. Another person, a civilian who was working in the center, suffered a critical head wound,” Abu Ali said.

Mohammed Al-Haj Ali

Mohammed Al-Haj Ali, originally from Daraa, had completed his first year studying Broadcast Journalism at Damascus University before leaving Syria in August 2012.

Jessica Page, Reporter/Translator

Jessica was a 2013-2014 Georgetown University Qatar Scholarship Program fellow in Doha, Qatar. She received her BA in both Arabic and International & Area Studies from Washington University in St. Louis. She has worked and studied in Jordan, Oman, and Qatar.