Residents of the Rukban camp protest conditions, southeast Syria, October 10, 2018 (Omar a-Shawi)
The Assad regime may lift its siege on the Rukban camp, home to more than 50,000 displaced people in southeast Syria near the Jordan border.
Aid workers and camp officials said the regime has approved a UN delivery of aid next week.
The regime has cut off routes to the camp, used by Bedouin traders to bring in food, medicine, and supplies, and has denied UN access. The blockade has been compounded by a refusal by Jordan to allow aid across the border, which it closed in June 2016 after an Islamic State attack.
The siege has led in recent weeks to the deaths of at least 12 people, including women and infants, according to camp medics and residents. Treatment of the sick, injured, and pregnant has been limited by a lack of medicines and supplies. Prices of food and basic goods have soared.
Critics say the regime is trying to force the displaced back to their home areas, despite the risk of detention and forced conscription and the uncertainty of regaining property.
Russia and the regime are also trying to force the withdrawal of US forces from their camp at al-Tanf, near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders. Rukban lies within a 55-km (34-mile) exclusion zone set up by the Americans to prevent attacks on their personnel, who back the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria, Ali Al-Za’tari, said in a statement:
The overall humanitarian situation inside the Rukban camp is at a critical stage. The UN in Syria together with Syrian Red Arab Cresent (SARC) will reach the camp to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance in the coming few days.
Oqba al-Abdullah, a relief official in the camp, was cautious:
The UN told us they would bring in aid….They have promised many times in the past but every time they say we were not able to come because the (Syrian) regime did not allow us.
We hope this time it’s true.
Putin Declares: ISIS Have Almost 700 Hostages Within US Exclusion Zone
Russian President Vladimir Putin added to the pressure on the US on Thursday with the claim that Islamic State fighters have taken almost 700 hostages in an area within the exclusion zone.
Putin asserted that some hostages were executed, with ISIS promising to kill more. He said US and European nationals are among those seized.
He told the Valdai discussion forum in the resort city of Sochi in southern Russia, “They have issued ultimatums, specific demands and warned that if these ultimatums are not met they will execute 10 people every day. The day before yesterday they executed 10 people.”
The President provided no evidence for his assertion. However, on Wednesday Russian State media said ISIS took the hostages on October 13, after an attack on a refugee camp in Deir ez-Zor Province in eastern Syria.
TASS wrote that 130 families had been moved to the town of Hajin.
The last known ISIS seizure of a large group was in late July, with more than two dozen civilians abducted after Islamic State attacks that killed more than 250 people. There were unconfirmed claims in early October that a female hostage had been executed.