Ammon News, Editor's Choice

US Sends Military Convoy From Jordan to Western Iraq

[5/22/2019 5:33:37 AM]

AMMONNEWS - The US military has dispatched a convoy of military vehicles and troops from Jordan to western Iraq, according to Iran's Fars News Agency. According to the publication, the convoy was escorted by US fighter jets. The source also said that the US military ramped up security measures at all their positions in Al-Anbar province to an "unprecedented level," according to Fars. Ayn al-Assad air base is located in western Iraq, some 150 kilometres from the Syrian border and about 270 kilometres away from Iran. According to Al-Masdar News, the US military has dispatched an undisclosed number of troops and an undisclosed amount of weapons to Iraq. The weapons are being transferred via security firms in Jordan, the publication says. Earlier in April, Iraqi media reported that the US military had increased its military presence in the Ayn al-Assad and al-Habaniyeh bases to 10,000 soldiers, adding that the troops are supplied with state-of-the-art equipment, according to Fars. According to Iraqi Badr Organization's head in al-Anbar, the two bases house US Marines, who have recently been relocated from Syria to Iraq. The source also said that 90% of US soldiers stationed in Iraq are actual combat forces and "are not considered military advisors," according to Al-Masdar. The Fars report comes just a week after the US sent the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, under the pretext of protection of its forces against the alleged Iranian threat. As bilateral tensions between the US and Iran rise, Iraq, which is a de facto ally to both Washington and Tehran, is caught between a rock and a hard place, according to the Military Times. Earlier in May, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Iraq with a message which the Times interprets as "if you're not going to stand with us, stand aside." Iraq currently houses both US troops and Iranian-backed militias, a Military Times report says. US President Trump has consecutively ramped up rhetoric against Tehran, even promising the "official end of Iran" in case of armed conflict. At the same time, the US President says he does not want war, because it's bad for the economy. During his 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump made US withdrawal from the Middle East one of the pillars of his presidential program. Earlier last year, he suddenly ordered a complete withdrawal from Syria (which has yet to be completed) and reportedly is seeking a way to withdraw from Afghanistan. *Sputnik

Read Comments

Palestinian gov’t says it was not consulted about US-led economic conference

[5/20/2019 10:06:27 AM]

AMMONNEWS - The Palestinians have not been consulted about a US-led conference in Bahrain next month designed to encourage international investment in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Monday. Washington announced the conference on Sunday, describing it as the unveiling of the first part of President Donald Trump’s long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. “The cabinet wasn’t consulted about the reported workshop, neither over the content, nor the outcome nor timing,” Shtayyed told Palestinian ministers in the presence of reporters. He did not immediately say whether Palestinians would attend the June 25-26 event in Manama, which US officials have predicted will include representatives and business executives from Europe, the Middle East and Asia, as well as some finance ministers. Shtayyeh reiterated Palestinians’ core demands for a two-state peace deal with Israel, which include gaining full control of the occupied West Bank and Hamas-ruled Gaza, as well as East Jerusalem. Israel calls Jerusalem its indivisible capital and said it might declare sovereignty in its West Bank settlements. The Trump administration has said its still-secret peace plan would require compromise by both sides. Since being shunned by the Palestinians, it has cut back on US aid for them, contributing to economic hardship in the West Bank and Gaza. “The financial crisis the Palestinian Authority is living through today is a result of the financial war that is being launched against us in order to win political concessions,” Shtayyeh told the cabinet. “We do not submit to blackmail and we don’t trade our political rights for money.” *Reuters

Read Comments

Over 950 Syrians Return Home From Jordan, Lebanon Over Past 24 Hours

[5/18/2019 6:37:35 AM]

AMMONNEWS - Over 950 Syrian refugees have returned to their home country from neighboring Jordan and Lebanon over the past 24 hours, the Russian Defense Ministry's Center for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides and Refugee Migration Monitoring said on Saturday. "Over the past day, in total 963 people returned to the Syrian Arab Republic from the territory of foreign states: 321 people (including 96 women and 163 children) left Lebanon for Syria via the Jaydet-Yabus and Talkalakh CPs [checkpoints], and 642 people (including 193 women and 327 children) from Jordan via the Nasib CP," the center said in its daily bulletin. According to the center, Syrian engineering units destroyed 69 explosives. *Sputnik

Read Comments

Escape from Rukban: Syria's deadly, men-only desert smuggling route

[5/16/2019 5:37:34 AM]

AMMONNEWS - It was just before sunset last month when a dozen or so young men set out from Rukban, a remote, rocky and desolate settlement that straddles the Syrian-Jordanian border. A long and especially bitter winter had just reached its end. Basic food and medical supplies had been in desperately short supply for months and were continuing to diminish by the day. Rukban is cut off from the rest of the country by a vast expanse of empty desert. The journey to rebel-held territory in the north takes 12 hours, is off road and must be done in the dark, despite it being a treacherous route, riddled with rock formations that jut out from the ground and a slew of pro-government military factions. Using the few roads that cross the desert and headlights to illuminate the way was out of the question – it would make them easier to detect, and that could mean arrest. “It was very difficult,” says Muhammad, who paid desert smugglers to guide him through the long journey. The men we spoke to asked that their full names were not used for security reasons. As fears mount over a growing push to dismantle and evacuate Rukban, men, who are vulnerable to arrest by the Syrian regime or compulsory military conscription, are eyeing escape from the camp. “I’m afraid to go to regime areas – I used to work with the opposition, and I haven’t done my [government-mandated] military service,” Muhammad tells The National from Afrin in north-eastern Syria, where the 24-year-old now lives after making the journey in April. He describes the desert route as being shrouded in darkness. “There were men who would fall off their motorbikes because we couldn’t turn on the lights,” he said. “We stayed on the same stretch of desert for about 12 hours – 150 kilometres of just desert.” Another former Rukban resident, Najoum, who made the journey last month, recalls how the men who accompanied him were fearful of landmines. “It was very difficult for us. We heard about people who had encountered mines and explosions along the way,” said Najoum. Rukban sits within a barren no-man’s-land between the borders of the two countries and is known as “the Berm”. According to the latest United Nations figures, some 30,000 people live there in improvised tents and mud homes, most of them having fled from rural parts of eastern Homs province after ISIS invaded. They had hoped to cross into Jordanian territory via a nearby border point, but in 2016, an ISIS-claimed car bombing killed several Jordanian soldiers that were stationed at a military outpost. Amman quickly shuttered the border and declared the surrounding area a military zone. Residents found themselves trapped in a barren patch of desert that, even before the war, had no infrastructure. There were no hospitals, schools, or even nearby towns or villages. They built their own makeshift pharmacies, grocery stores and livestock markets. A handful of nurses used whatever supplies they could find to treat people in the few informal medical clinics that were scattered throughout the camp. Schools were set up in tents and one-room mud buildings. The settlement lies within a 55km zone of nominal rebel control with the backing of US forces based at a nearby military garrison. Previously, most of the supplies came from smugglers, who transported them from government-controlled areas of the country and charged high prices, but their routes were cut off late last year. Organised aid deliveries usually only arrive once a year, the most recent of which, from the UN and Syrian government-affiliated aid agency SARC, reached Rukban in February. The Syrian government and Russia announced evacuations via a “humanitarian corridor” in February. Checkpoints set up in government-controlled territory outside Rukban “meet, receive, distribute and provide necessary assistance” to the internally displaced people leaving the camp, according to a Russian Ministry of Defence statement. More than 10,000 people have left since late March via the corridor, according to the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokesman David Swanson. They boarded the government’s green evacuation buses headed for Homs, where they are being held in reception centres that have reportedly been set up in former public school buildings. Their exact whereabouts and living conditions, however, remain largely a mystery. Communication is mostly cut off once they cross into government territory – they enter into the mostly unknown. Little more substantial than rumours of the fate that awaits them have reached Rukban, but there is talk of Syrian government guards separating women and children from men in holding centres in Homs city. There are also accusations of a shooting last month, with two men who had attempted an escape from one of the holding centres allegedly killed. The stories are unconfirmed, but they are enough to make Rukban's men wary of taking the government's route out. Syrian men fear returning to regime territory In one corner of Rukban’s sprawl of mud homes, Ziad, 24, is weighing up his options. His home town in rural Homs province has changed hands from ISIS to the Syrian government since he fled years ago. He has a somewhat steady income – for Rukban, at least – as a journalist and media activist and gets what he can out of life, despite living in a barren eastern desert. But amid the recent wave of evacuations, and talk of dismantling the settlement, Ziad is considering a way out. “I won’t return to regime territory,” he says, speaking one afternoon earlier this month over Whatsapp. “They killed our families and imprisoned us. They are taking young men into the army.” As a young man, susceptible to arrest or conscription should he return to his home town, he says he has few other options but to send his family home and join one of the motorbike smuggling convoys through the desert. “If the situation in Rukban keeps getting more difficult, I’ll take the same route” says Ziad. “If I’m forced to leave, I’ll buy a motorbike [in the camp] and will go with the smugglers.” Those who are leaving the camp are leaving behind the hunger Muhammed, former Rukban resident Many in the settlement say the smugglers come from a tribe in Rukban, with roots in Syria’s eastern desert. Ziad isn’t the first in his family to reach that decision. His cousin took the journey in March, eventually reaching Idlib province, the last major zone of opposition control in Syria after years of pro-government military advances. The last time Ziad saw him, he was working in one of Rukban’s makeshift markets selling fuel canisters. “He told me that he was going to travel north with a group of men going there via a smuggling route,” says Ziad. “He said to me, ‘don’t let my family know I’m taking this route, not until I arrive [in Idlib]’.’’ Ziad estimates that the route has been active for the past three months. Although it is difficult to accurately count the number of men who have fled north, Rukban-based citizen journalist Emad Ghali estimates that more than a hundred have taken the smuggling route. There has been an sharp rise in departures since the evacuation corridor was announced. “People are sending their families to regime territory and then leaving [Rukban] via the motorbike route,” he says. A ‘slow death’ in Rukban For the tens of thousands of Syrians still left behind in Rukban, there is little to sustain daily life. An especially brutal winter has taken its toll on residents – the UN estimates that at least 12 children, including newborn babies, perished due to a lack of vital medicine. Camp residents have long described living the conditions as a “slow death” and UNOCHA’s Mr Swanson says life there “remains dire”. There is limited access to urgently needed humanitarian assistance. One camp resident, who requested anonymity for security reasons, said there is a near total lack of even the most basic food items. “Even if something is in supply, it is extremely expensive,” he says. “There are no vegetables. No rice, grains or flour.” “Those who are leaving the camp are leaving behind the hunger.” Muhammad, recalling his life in Rukban, says the scarcity of nearly all necessities made the risky motorbike trip worth it. And since leaving the settlement, he has married his fiancée in Afrin. “People are fleeing death to a possible death on the smuggling route,” he says. “It's a similar death, just one that isn’t in Rukban.” *The National

Read Comments

Syrian refugees return home from Jordan, Rukban camp

[5/9/2019 6:22:06 AM]

AMMONNEWS - Batches of Syrian refugees returned from Jordan and a southern Syrian camp on Wednesday, according to the state news agency SANA. The refugees returned to Syria through the Nasib border crossing in the southern province of Daraa. SANA said that 19,600 refugees returned from Jordan since the reopening of the crossing between both countries late last year. The Syrian refugees started returning in batches from Jordan since last October when the Nasib crossing between the two countries reopened. It is estimated that 1.4 million Syrian refugees are located in Jordan, according to Jordanian report. Meanwhile, SANA said that displaced Syrians left the Rukban camp in southeastern Syria and reached government areas in Homs province on Wednesday, the latest batch that left the battered camp since early this year. The evacuees from the camp reached the Jlaighem crossing in the eastern countryside of Homs Province in central Syria after leaving Rukban camp near the U.S.-controlled al-Tanf area in the remote southeastern countryside of Homs. The Rukban camp is home to 50,000 displaced Syrians, who are suffering from the harsh humanitarian situation because of lack of supplies. *Xinhua

Read Comments

Jordan welcomes ICC decision on Sudan’s Bashir’s visit

[5/7/2019 11:00:08 AM]

AMMONNEWS - Jordan yesterday welcomed the decision of the appeals chamber of the International Criminal Court not to refer the kingdom to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) after it failed to arrest then Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir when he visited Amman in 2017. Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji said: “The appeals chamber confirms … Jordan had failed to comply with its obligations under the statute by failing to execute the court’s request for the arrest of Mr Al-Bashir and his surrender to the court, while he was in Amman on 29 March 2017.” However, Eboe-Osuji explained that Jordan’s action was not grounds for referral because Amman had tried to consult the court about the matter ahead of time. Spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign and Expatriate Affairs, Sufian Al-Qudah, said the decision came after Jordan appealed the referral regarding Al-Bashir’s visit to Amman in March 2017, to attend the Arab League summit. Al-Qudah explained that the decision not to refer Jordan was “in recognition of Jordan’s historical role in supporting the ICC and commitment to international law”, adding that “Jordan acted in good faith”. Since 2009, the ICC has been calling for Al-Bashir’s arrest on charges of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Darfur region and genocide in 2010. Al-Bashir was recently ousted by the military following four months of popular protests across the country. *MEM

Read Comments

Foreign ministry blasts Israel's violations against Al Aqsa Mosque

[4/25/2019 10:38:09 AM]

AMMONNEWS - The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriate condemned the ongoing Israeli violations against Al Aqsa Mosque, the last incident of which was the incursion of hundreds of Jewish extremists in the past few days under the protection of Israeli police and special forces. "Such irresponsible acts are a provocation to the feelings of millions of Muslims around the world, and exemplify the condemned and reprehensible Israeli policies aimed at changing the historical status quo in the Al-Aqsa Mosque," the ministry's spokesperson, Sufian Qudah, said in a statement on Thursday. He said the Department of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque Awqaf is the only body responsible for the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the organization of entry to it. As an occupying power in East Jerusalem, Israel is held to account for these violations and provocative actions and for the safety of Al-Aqsa Mosque, he pointed out. Qudah called on Israel to halt these provocations immediately, and to respect its obligations in accordance with the international law. He also announced a diplomatic protest note had been sent to the Israeli government through diplomatic channels.

Read Comments