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US forces responsible for humanitarian crisis at Rukban refugee camp: Syria

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
In this file picture, people gather to take foodstuff and other aid supplies at the Rukban refugee camp on the Jordan-Syria border. (Photo by AP)

A Syrian official has held US military forces and their allied militants responsible for the humanitarian crisis affecting thousands of internally displaced people at a refugee camp near the Jordan-Syria border, saying American troops are preventing residents from leaving the site toward government-controlled areas.

“The responsibility for the humanitarian crisis of our people at al-Rukban camp falls solely on US occupation forces and their stooges, as they have been preventing civilians’ departure by means of force and threats. This is while safe corridors have been opened for those who are willing to leave the camp,” the unnamed official at the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates was quoted by official SANA news agency as saying on Thursday.

He stressed that the Damascus government is prepared to take responsibility for securing a safe and decent return of displaced people to their hometowns.

“Syria renews its call on our people in Rukban to leave the camp and return to their homes. The Syrian government will provide all facilities to transport the citizens from the camp to their places of residence,” the official pointed out.

Addressing a Security Council meeting in New York on Tuesday, Syria’s Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar al-Ja’afari said that Damascus has opened two humanitarian corridors to provide a safe exit for displaced people stranded at Rukban camp.

“Syria aspires for an end to the sufferings of people at Rukban camp, where most of the residents want to return to state-controlled areas, and demands an end to the illegitimate presence of US troops and terrorist gangs there,” the senior Syrian official commented.

Russian officials have also accused the US and Washington-backed militants of holding people in Rukban hostage.

“We call on the American command and leaders of illegal militant groups in … al-Tanf region to put an end to the forcible keeping of women and children, mostly affected by cold, illness and malnutrition in the camp. All of them will be given necessary assistance,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said on February 15, as a humanitarian convoy of the United Nations and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) delivered aid, including medical supplies and basic commodities, to Rukban.

Konashenkov added that Russia and Syria would jointly establish a temporary housing area for refugees from the camp.

This handout photo released by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) on November 5, 2018, shows displaced people receiving vaccination in the Rukban camp for displaced Syrians near Syria's border with Jordan.

The UN says about 45,000 people, mostly women and children, are trapped inside Rukban, where conditions are desperate. This is while Geneva-based international aid agency Doctors Without Borders has put the number there at some 60,000.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that US forces were unlawfully deployed to al-Tanf region in southern Syria, and were training terrorists, who carry out acts of terror across Syria and prevent the return of displaced people in Rukban to their hometowns.

In October, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said people in Rukban had been without access to food and humanitarian aid for several months, highlighting that the tough situation was further complicated with a closed border by Jordan.

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