Children in the Rukban camp for displaced Syrians near the Jordanian border (File)
Russia and the Assad regime are blocking the supply of food and goods to the Rukban camp in southeast Syria, in their latest attempt to force the removal of more than 40,000 displaced Syrians.
For months, the regime has cut off routes to the camp near the Jordanian border, a blockade compounded by Jordan’s refusal to allow supplies and movement at crossings except for those needing urgent medical care. Damascus has allowed only two aid deliveries in 13 months.
On Tuesday, Russia said it was opening two “humanitarian corridors” for residents to depart — a tactic also used to bolster sieges and set up offensives that overran eastern Aleppo city in December 2016 and the East Ghouta region near Damascus in spring 2018.
Images confirmed that few, if any, residents went to the two Russian checkpoints. Local camp officials said that the Russians did not get in contact to make any substantive arrangements.
Residents said on Wednesday that Russian military police and the regime’s army are using checkpoints to prevent traders coming from regime-held areas with food and fuel.
Texts from a camp resident have been passed to EA:
Please appeal to the world and the United Nations to intervene quickly, the situation in the camp is tragic.
All the road leading to the camp are cut off, there is nothing — milk, fuel, vegetables, water.
The displaced fled to the barren Rukban area in 2015 when their home areas were attacked by the Islamic State.
The Assad regime wants them to move back to their home territory, but the residents fear detentions and forced conscriptions and are uncertain about the status of their property. Many wish to be transferred to opposition-held northwest Syria.
Resident Mahmoud al-Humaili summarized, “[The Russians] opened the corridors to pressure people to go to regime areas where they get arrested and taken to military conscription.”
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has said that it is not involved in the Russian maneuver, and called for any move of residentst to be “voluntary, safe, dignified, and well-informed and in line with minimum protection standards”.
The US State Department has issued a statement that “any unilateral process” which “does not allow for informed decision-making by Rukban residents is not acceptable”.