IS ex­pands hold in bor­der camp for Syrians

Medicine Hat News - - NATION-WORLD -

Armed Is­lamic State ex­trem­ists are ex­pand­ing their in­flu­ence in a sprawl­ing camp for dis­placed Syrians on Jor­dan’s bor­der, pos­ing a grow­ing threat to the U.S.al­lied king­dom, a se­nior Jordanian mil­i­tary com­man­der said.

Brig. Gen. Sami Kafawin, chief of Jor­dan’s bor­der forces, spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press dur­ing a tour of the re­mote desert area, just west of where Jor­dan, Syria and Iraq meet.

The Is­lamic State group seized parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014, and still holds ter­ri­tory there, in­clud­ing ar­eas abut­ting Jor­dan, de­spite re­cent mil­i­tary set­backs.

A flight in a Jordanian mil­i­tary helicopter on Tues­day of­fered a view of the Ruk­ban camp, an ex­panse of tents and makeshift shel­ters hous­ing tens of thou­sands of stranded Syrians.

Con­di­tions in Ruk­ban and the smaller Hadalat camp de­te­ri­o­rated sharply af­ter Jor­dan sealed its bor­der in June, fol­low­ing a cross-bor­der IS car bomb at­tack that killed seven Jordanian bor­der guards.

The clo­sure dis­rupted what un­til then had been fairly reg­u­lar dis­tri­bu­tions of food and wa­ter by Jor­dan-based in­ter­na­tional aid agen­cies. In re­cent months, there had been mount­ing re­ports of lack of clean wa­ter, the rise of mal­nu­tri­tion among chil­dren and the spread of disease.

Late last year, af­ter months of ne­go­ti­a­tions, U.N.-led aid groups and Jordanian of­fi­cials worked out a new ar­range­ment for the camps, lo­cated be­tween two low miles-long mounds of earth, or berms, that strad­dle the Syr­i­anJor­da­nian bor­der.

A food dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tre was set up sev­eral miles west of Ruk­ban, while U.N. mo­bile health clin­ics con­sist­ing of sev­eral trail­ers were es­tab­lished on Jordanian ter­ri­tory, near the south­ern­most berm.

Aid of­fi­cials said tribal lead­ers help or­ga­nize the dis­tri­bu­tions, de­spite con­cerns by aid agen­cies that this will lead to un­fair al­lot­ments and black mar­ke­teer­ing.

In a joint state­ment on Wed­nes­day, U.N. agen­cies in Jor­dan said con­di­tions still “present a sur­vival chal­lenge,” while ac­knowl­edg­ing the Jordanian mil­i­tary’s ef­forts to co-or­di­nate aid ship­ments.

“De­liv­ery of hu­man­i­tar­ian aid ex­pe­ri­enced se­ri­ous de­lays and in­ter­rup­tions due to lo­gis­ti­cal and se­cu­rity con­straints over the past months,” the state­ment said. “Only one dis­tri­bu­tion cy­cle of a month’s worth of food ra­tions and es­sen­tial items, in­clud­ing blan­kets, warm clothes and plas­tic sheet­ing, was made pos­si­ble to those liv­ing at the berm be­tween Novem­ber 2016 and Jan­uary 2017.”

The state­ment said wa­ter has been de­liv­ered reg­u­larly and that U.N. health ser­vices were able to pro­vide life-sav­ing care, with the most se­ri­ous cases re­ferred to Jor­dan for fur­ther treat­ment.

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