Friday 23 February 2018

12 refugees die as camp 'bombed by Russians'

Intervention: Vladimir Putin Photo: Sputnik/Kremlin/Alexei Druzhinin/via REUTERS
Intervention: Vladimir Putin Photo: Sputnik/Kremlin/Alexei Druzhinin/via REUTERS

Roland Oliphant

Twelve people were killed and dozens injured when warplanes that appeared to be Russian bombed a refugee camp on the Jordanian-Syrian border on Tuesday, Syrian rebels have said.

If confirmed, the attack would be the first time Russia's airforce has bombed so close to the Jordanian border since Vladimir Putin launched a military intervention in September 2015.

The strikes, carried out by a number of aircraft, reportedly hit a refugee camp near the Hadalat border crossing.

A senior Western diplomat confirmed the incident and said several Russian jets appeared to have conducted the raids.

The Russian ministry of defence had not commented on the claims as of yesterday.

Humanitarian workers in Jordan said they believed women and children had been killed in the bombing but that it was difficult to confirm as they were unable to access the makeshift camp inside Syria.

The targeted camp houses thousands of Syrians as they wait in the searing desert heat in the hope of being allowed into Jordan.

Around 60,000 Syrians are waiting at the border, according to the UN, and aid agencies are only able to make limited trips from Jordan to deliver water and medicine.

Jordan has long been suspicious that Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) fighters would try to enter the country posing as refugees and carries out strict vetting procedures before admitting anyone.

But the trickle of refugees being allowed in has come to an almost complete stop since an Isil suicide bombing killed six of its border guards last month.

Asked whether Jordan was concerned that Russian forces were bombing so close to the border, a Jordanian military officer laughed.

"We've been living with insecurity on our borders since 2003 [and the US-led invasion of neighbouring Iraq] so for us it's not a new thing. Jordan is living in a very tough environment and we need to be as ready as we can."

The reported strike came a day after Moscow trumpeted a raid by its strategic bomber force against targets in the war-torn country.

Six long-range bombers flying from bases in southern Russia struck Isil targets in eastern Syria on Tuesday, the Russian military said in a statement.

Dmitry Peskov, Mr Putin's press secretary, said yesterday the airstrike was "part of on-going air force operations" and dismissed the suggestion it was "revenge" for the recent deaths of two Russian servicemen.

Two Russian pilots were killed when the helicopter they were on was shot down by Isil insurgents near Palmyra on Friday.

Irish Independent

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