Damascus 'will allow' aid access to besieged, starving Syrian refugees

Damascus 'will allow' aid access to besieged, starving Syrian refugees
The Syrian regime will allow aid groups to access refugees trapped on the Jordan border, a UN relief official said on Wednesday.
2 min read
17 October, 2018
Rukban Camp has witnessed some of the worst conditions in the Syria war [Getty]

Damascus said it will grant aid groups access to tens of thousands of refugees trapped close to the Jordanian border, but not after a regime siege led to the deaths of a number of children at the camp.

Around 50,000 Syrian refugees remain trapped on the border with Jordan, with Amman blocking aid groups access to them and the Syrian regime tightening a siege on the Rukban camp.

At least 12 people have died, mostly children and women, over the past week when the Syrian regime blocked the last traders and smugglers, meaning food, water and medicine supplies are desperately low.

On Wednesday, the UN was reportedly given the green light by Damascus to enter the camp next week.

"The UN told us they would bring in aid... they have promised many times in the past but every time they say we were not able to come because the (Syrian) regime did not allow us," Oqba al-Abdullah, a relief official at Rukban told Reuters. "We hope this time it's true."

Jordan has allowed a delivery of aid to enter Rukban, but said that the camp's situation on the other side of the border means supplies must come from the UN office in Syria.

Analysts believe the starvation siege on Rukban is an attempt by the Syrian regime and ally Russia to force the US to withdraw from the al-Tanf military camp in southern Syria.

Pro-regime Iranian militias have moved on al-Tanf, but were forced back following US air strikes on the columns.

Conditions at al-Rukban are some of the worst experienced by Syrians in the war, with makeshift shelters homing thousands of children. 

UNICEF - the UN's agency for children - has urged the Syrian and Jordanian governments to allow aid groups to access the camp.

Food and medical supplies have been in short supply, while water access has been woefully low and dirty.

Residents have spoken about the appalling conditions in the camp.

"More than 60,000 people are waiting for a slow death.  Children and babies are dying because of the siege enforced by the Syrian regime and her allies 10 days ago," the residents wrote in the letter.  

"If this situation continues, the camp will become a cemetery for its people," the letter read.