Thousands of stranded Syrians flee border camp near Jordan

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) – Syrian opposition activists and witnesses said Tuesday that several thousand Syrians stranded on the border with Jordan have fled one makeshift camp for another, running from shelling and nearby fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces.

A Jordanian official confirmed that residents of Hadalat camp in the remote desert of southeastern Syria “were moved”. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the issue with reporters.

Fighting in southwestern Syria ebbed in recent weeks, after a cease-fire deal brokered by the US, Russia and Jordan in July. At the same time, Syrian government troops have been advancing in the southeast, close to the borders with Jordan and Iraq.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Tuesday that civilians and armed rebels began leaving Hadalat at the beginning of September.

Syrian troops have been advancing in the southeast, “taking area after area,” and Hadalat residents fled because government forces were getting closer, said Abdurrahman, whose group relies on a network of activists across Syria.

This February 14 file photo shows the informal Rukban camp for displaced Syrians, between the Jordan and Syria borders. – AP

Hadalat had sheltered some 5,000 people, including relatives of rebels from two groups affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, a Western-backed coalition fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad.

Rebel militias helped evacuate Hadalat’s civilians, all of whom had fled by the end of last week, according to rebel officials and displaced residents.

Most civilians fled to the larger border camp of Rukban further to the east, with population estimates there ranging from the United Nations’ (UN) 45,000 to double that figure.

The number of displaced Syrians on Jordan’s border had been rising since the kingdom began restricting entry in 2014. Residents of the tent camps on the border have endured severe hardships, including harsh weather and scarce food, water and medical aid.

Jordan closed the border formally in 2016, after the Islamic State (IS) extremist group’s car bomb attack launched from near Rukban killed seven Jordanian border guards.

Mohammed al-Adnan, a spokesman for the Tribal Army, a Jordan-backed Syrian militia, said Tuesday that all civilians had left Hadalat and that only some armed men remained there.