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US-backed militants prevent Syrians from fleeing Rukban camp: Analyst

In this picture taken on March 1, 2017, Syrian refugee patients from the makeshift Rukban camp cross over to visit a UN-operated medical clinic immediately on the Jordanian-side for checkups. (By AFP)

US-sponsored militants are preventing displaced Syrians stranded in a camp near the Jordanian border from leaving the site toward government-controlled areas, a Syrian analyst says.

Mazen Bilal, a political analyst, told Reuters on Monday that the militants had blocked civilians at the Rukban camp from using a safe passage set up by the Syrian government and Russia last month to leave the area.

The camp is located near the US base at al-Tanf which is a key center for training and equipping militants opposed to the Syrian government. 

US reports have said the base will stay despite President Donald Trump's announcement in December to withdraw troops from Syria. 

In February, Russia and Syria announced that two humanitarian passages had been opened for the displaced Syrians to move to other places.

Bilal said the Syrian government hopes to solve the problem in Rukban as soon as possible from a humanitarian perspective and expects the militants not to cause trouble.  

"Inside this camp, there are some Syrian civilians as well as militants and some remnants of Daesh. The Syrian government hopes to solve the problem of militants inside Rukban camp, so as to prevent them from unleashing attacks."   

According to a joint statement by Syria and Russia, some militant groups at the Rukban camp are holding people hostage, which make rescue operations impossible.

Moreover, the US forces in al-Tanf zone failed to ensure the safe passage of the rescue convoy through the occupied area, which actually jeopardized the rescue operation. 

Therefore, Bilal said, the US forces do not want to withdraw from al-Tanf zone because of its strategic importance, so it collaborates with anti-government militants to justify its presence in the zone. 

"There is some specific reason why the US forces prevented the rescue convoys from entering the camp, except for unwillingness to help," he said.

"If they allowed the vehicles to enter, some militants would be transferred. The US wants to take more actions or impose pressure on the Syrian government under the pretext of the militants."

According to a survey conducted by the United Nations and the Syrian Red Crescent Society, 95 percent of about 45,000 Syrians held in Rukban wish to leave the camp as soon as possible.

Last week, Russia and Syria called on the US to release the Rukban camp residents and ensure their access to places of permanent residence.

Read more:

Moscow, Damascus want American forces out of Syria

Many of the residents at Rukban have fled areas seized by Daesh terrorists, who have now lost nearly all the territory they once held.

The UN says the residents, mostly women and children, are trapped inside the camp where conditions are desperate.  

Read more:

'US accountable for humanitarian crisis at Rukban camp'

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