IS expands hold in border camp for Syrians
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.