Document reveals Syrian regime ordered full siege of al-Rukban IDP camp

Document reveals Syrian regime ordered full siege of al-Rukban IDP camp
A document revealed by al-Quds al-Arabi showed the Syrian regime ordering the soldiers to obstruct the flow of aid to a refugee camp on the Syria-Jordan border.
3 min read
18 June, 2024
The written order provides the first ever documentation of Syrian regime forces blocking aid to al-Rukban. [Getty]

A document revealed by Al-Quds al-Arabi on Saturday that the Syrian regime had instructed regime forces to institute a full siege on al-Rukban refugee camp on the Syria-Jordan border on 1 April.

The over two-months long siege has blocked almost all food, medicine and other basic goods from reaching the camp of 10,000, resulting in famine-like conditions.

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The regime ordered forces to "prevent the entry of any vehicles and vehicles carrying food or medical materials, including animal feeds," as well as to carry out the "rules of engagement" against anyone who attempted to violate the siege.

While the Syrian regime has periodically tightened the entry of supplies into the camp, this is the first time that a direct order to cut off the camp from essential goods has come to light.

Al-Rukban was formed in 2014 as Syrians fled towards Jordan as the Syrian regime carried out a brutal crackdown against protesters in the wake of the 2011 uprising in Syria.

It sits inside a demilitarised zone along the Syria-Jordan border controlled by US military forces and its local Syrian opposition partner. Both Damascus and Jordan have prevented aid from entering the camp from their territory since 2018.

The camp's population has dwindled considerably, from a peak of 75,000 in 2016 to a little under 10,000 today, with residents fleeing the rampant disease and malnutrition present in the camp.

According to the last available UN statistics in 2020, nearly 100 per cent of children under the age of 5 were malnourished.

Those who remain in al-Rukban say they are willing to endure brutal conditions in the camp to stay out of the hands of regime security officers. 

DC-based rights group, Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), has documented cases of Rukban residents being tortured to death by Syrian security services upon their return.

Despite the siege, a few smugglers have been able to reliably bring goods into the camp for exorbitant prices, keeping its inhabitants alive. The regime, and particularly the Iranian-aligned 4th division, have turned a blind eye to the smuggling in the past.

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The new directive instituted in April, however, has prompted a crackdown on even these smuggling routes, choking off the meagre trickle of goods into the camp. Only two trucks of goods have managed to enter the camp since April.

Rights groups have argued that the US forces have an obligation to provide adequate aid for inhabitants of al-Rukban camp as the occupying power in the area. The US has refused, arguing that the Syrian regime has the responsibility to provide aid to camp residents.

Some aid had also previously reached the camp starting in 2023, brought in by SETF on US military planes already travelling to the area.

The amount of air-delivered aid has dwindled, however, after 7 October, and has not been adequate to address the needs of residents.