AMMAN (Reuters) – The Syrian government gave approval for the U.N. to deliver aid next week to thousands of civilians stranded near a U.S. garrison on the Jordanian-Syrian border, aid workers and camp officials said on Wednesday.
A siege earlier this month by the Syrian army and a block on aid by Jordan has depleted food at the camp in the southeastern Syrian area of Rukban. This led to at least a dozen deaths in the past week among its over 50,000 inhabitants, mainly women and children, residents and U.N. sources told Reuters.
The United Nations contacted local officials in the camp to say they had received authorisation from Damascus to send an aid convoy on Oct. 25.
The Syrian army has tightened its siege of the camp, which is also near the Iraqi border, preventing smugglers and traders from delivering food.[L8N1WR1SZ]
Jordan, which agreed early this year to allow a one-off aid shipment, has said since it should not be held responsible as the camp was not on its territory and all future provisions must come from U.N. stores inside Syria.
In the last three years, tens of thousands of people have fled to the camp from Islamic State-held parts of Syria that were being targeted by Russian and U.S.-led coalition air strikes.
Rukban lies within a 55 km (35 mile) “deconfliction zone” set up by the U.S. Pentagon. This is designed to shield the Tanf garrison from attacks by pro-Assad forces and maintain for Washington a strategic foothold in an area along the Baghdad-Damascus highway that was a crucial supply route for Iranian weapons entering Syria from Iraq.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and David Stamp)