Russian military police and Syrian troops have blockaded food and goods supply routes to the Rukban refugee camp in Syria in a bid to force thousands of desperate residents to leave the U.S.-protected area near a Pentagon-run base, camp residents said on Wednesday.
Russia's defence ministry announced on Tuesday it was opening two so-called humanitarian corridors on the outskirts of the camp for those who wanted to leave. More than 50,000 people, mainly women and children, live there in dire conditions.
Residents and rebels said the army and the Russian military placed checkpoints to prevent traders coming from government-held areas to supply the camp with food and fuel, causing prices to skyrocket and causing scarcity.
"They are preventing traders from coming here; there is no fresh produce or wheat or fuel," Colonel Muhanad al Talaa, commander of the Pentagon-backed Maghawir al Thawra in the area, told Reuters.
Tens of thousands of displaced Syrians living in former Islamic State territory in eastern Syria who fled a massive Russian bombing campaign had over the last few years trekked to the border area seeking protection from air raids.
Most of the camp's residents have preferred to stay rather than go back to their homes in territory regained last year by the army for fear of retribution or being drafted.
"They opened the corridors to pressure people to go to regime areas where they get arrested and taken to military conscription," said Mahmoud al Humaili, a local camp figure.
Western diplomats believe the latest siege of the camp that raised the spectre of starvation is part of a renewed Russian-led effort to put pressure on Washington to get out of Tanf, as the camp falls within a 55-km (34-mile) so-called deconfliction zone established by the Pentagon with the aim of shielding the Tanf garrison from attacks.
Source: Euro News