Children in the Rukban camp in southeast Syria (File)
UPDATE 1430 GMT:
Russian officials have invited US military and Jordanian representatives, as well as the Syrian Arab Crescent, to a meeting on Tuesday at a Russian checkpoint.
The “Russia-Syria Joint Coordination Headquarters” says the meeting’s participants will visit Rukban.
Russia has called for the “liquidation” of the Rukban camp, home to more than 40,000 displaced people, in southeast Syria.
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued the message via Twitter:
The Ministry deleted the tweet more than 24 hours later, replacing it with a message of blame on the US and “militants”: “For 1,785 days now the Syrian citizens has been suffering forcibly detained in #Rukban refugee camp by #US-controlled armed groups in the occupied Al-Tanf zone.”
That tweet was based on a revised statement from the Russian Defense Ministry which removed “liquidation” for the less provocative “disbanding”: “We appeal to the entire international community to support the idea of disbanding the Rukban camp, this hotbed of violence, crime, and the spread of dangerous infections on the Syrian-Jordanian border.”
At best, a tone-deaf choice of words, given some of the meanings of “liquidation” – «ликвидация». pic.twitter.com/JRdtriHj81
— Jonathan D. Abolins (@jabolins) March 22, 2019
While maintaining the propaganda against the Americans and some of the camp’s residents, the statement did not mention the Assad regime’s siege since last autumn on Rukban, hoping to force the displaced to return to home areas. Nor did it mention Russia’s role in the pressure, with routes cut off and only two aid deliveries allowed by Damascus since January 2018.
The displaced fled to Rukban, a barren area near Jordan, when the Islamic State attacked their towns and villages in 2015. Their difficult situation has been compounded by Jordanian authorities’ closure of the border in June 2016, now allowing only urgent medical cases to cross.
Dozens of people have died from shortages of food, medicine, and supplies and inadequate medical care since last autumn. The UN has warned that thousands of children are at risk.
More than 90% of the residents told the UN in a survey that they wish to leave Rukban. However, they said they were prevented by fear of detentions and forced conscription and insecurity over the status of their property.
Russia has tried for more than a month to remove the residents, first through “humanitarian corridors” — military checkpoints — to which no one showed up and then through a “green bus” convoy which never reached the camp amid protests by the displaced.
If @mfa_russia have legitimate 'concerns' about 'infections' in #RukbanCamp the answer is simple. The #Syria Regime #Russia & #Jordan lift the blockade to allow Doctors & proper medical supplies into the camp & @WHO insist #Syria & #Jordan facilitate medical evacuations URGENTLY
— Joanna Wren (@1962Wren) March 22, 2019
Rukban lies within a 55-km security zone around the US base at Tanf, near the Iraq border. The American military has refused to intervene for fear of antagonizing the Russians.
Talks between Russia and Rukban’s elders failed to lift the siege earlier this month, with the elders saying that no assurances were given over forced conscription if men went back to home areas.