REPORT: ISIS cells embedding into refugee camps

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ISIS cells are hiding among the 80,000 people trapped in Al Rukban Refugee Camp, located in a “no man’s land” near Syria and Jordan, according to a report by NBC News.

The refugees have fled to the camp to escape wars that had ISIS gunmen and suicide bombers killing civilians throughout the Middle East. With no government protection, ISIS continues terrorize people in the camp community.

Although the zone is officially demilitarized, ISIS cells inside the camp prevent air travel, with pilots fearful of being shot down by someone in the camp’s population.

Jordan’s commander of the army, Brig. Gen. Sami Kafawin, said militants in the camp “have whole weapons systems.” He claims they have small arms, RPGs, and anti-aircraft weapons. “They [ISIS] consider the camp a safe haven. We consider it an imminent threat,” he said.

Regular attacks take place at the camp and gun battles occur on a daily basis, according to Kafawin. He estimates that there may be 4,000 militants in the camp, representing up to five percent of the camp’s population.

Many aid agencies cannot provide services in the area,  while the U.N.’s World Food Program is only able to deliver supplies once a month, which sustains the growing population in the camp. Terrible shelters, bedraggled residents and those with medical needs prove that more aid is desperately necessary, yet aid remains beyond reach.

 

The Rukban camp lies in an area where Syria has no control, while Syrian rebels who oppose their President, Bashar al-Assad, continue to control the neighboring region. It’s in areas such as this that are considered places where safe zones can be created.

Recently, President Donald Trump agreed that “safe zones” were essential for refugees displaced by war. However, according to NBC News, if Rukban is a case study, it’s clear that camps need to be monitored and secured to keep militant cells from infiltrating and taking over.

President Trump ordered the Pentagon and State Department to determine how to do just that. True safe zones would almost certainly require a combination of money, military presence and air control.

President Trump, has spoken to Jordan’s King Abdullah and Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding the establishment of safe areas, according to the White House. Iran, Russia and Turkey backed the establishment of such zones in or around Syria on Thursday. The U.S. was not involved with that agreement due to Tehran’s inclusion.

Kafawin says to ensure truly secure safe zones, they will need a lot of effort to maintain and secure it. “It’s difficult to protect. You need a no fly zone, you need 24-hour patrols and you need, for sure, ground forces,” he said. “I don’t think it’s possible without U.S. support.”

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