Displaced youth sift through rubbish at the Rukban camp in southeast Syria, November 2019 (Amad Ghaly)

Russia and the Assad regime have renewed their campaign to force about 13,000 displaced civilians to leave the besieged Rukban camp in southeast Syria.

A Russia-regime statement on Friday converted the siege, established when regime forces cut the main route into Rukban in September 2018, into the declaration that the US military is impeding aid.

The statement cloaked their demand for the forced transfer of the displaced, facing shortages of food and medicine, and dissolution of the camp as “a safe and unconditional exit”. It proclaimed that the Americans, at the Tanf base near the Iraq border, are working with “terrorist groups”.

Rukban, in a barren area near the Jordanian border, once hosted more than 50,000 people displaced from homes in central Syria amid Islamic State attacks in 2015.

But the threat of starvation and lack of medical care, with only rudimentary clinics, gradually forced many residents to go to regime centers despite the prospect of detention, forced conscription, intimidation, and loss of property.

See Syria Daily, March 13: Rukban Residents — “We Are Being Killed in Silence”

Russia and the regime have allowed only three aid shipments into the camp since January 2018. Russia has supported the siege with propaganda, disinformation, and pressure on the local council through meetings which demand the camp’s disbandment.

Jordan blocked the movement of goods across the border in June 2016, after an Islamic State suicide bomb killed several Jordanian personnel.

The camp is within a 55-km security zone around the US base at Tanf; however, fearing a clash with Moscow, the Americans have not intervened to break the blockade.

But remaining civilians are holding out. In a UN survey in February 2019, almost all cited their concerns about regime treatment in Homs Province, where they would be held in centers upon return.

The last high-profile Russia-regime propaganda effort was at the end of March: “The US side seeks to make use of coronavirus spread and tries to exert pressure on the UN to pass shipments and equipment to the terrorists under the pretext of medical and humanitarian aid to the besieged persons in the camp.”

See Syria Daily, March 29: Russia-Regime Propaganda v. Displaced in Besieged Rukban Camp