Middle East

300 graves uncovered in Syria: Russian Defense Ministry

Russia’s Defense Ministry says Russian satellites have found a cemetery with hundreds of graves near Rukban refugee camp in southern Syria, where US forces and their allied militants are preventing residents from leaving the site toward government-controlled areas.

“A fresh cemetery with 300 fresh graves has been uncovered on the southern side immediately outside the camp’s fence,” the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

The statement added that satellite data suggest that most structures in the Rukban camp are makeshift settlements and unfit for winter conditions.

It further noted that the images disclose that a part of refugees simply had to live under open shelters, and unsanitary conditions reign in the camp.

While garbage dumps are located close to housing tents, food storage and meal facilities are absent. Foodstuffs and other products are exchanged at makeshift mini-markets that are controlled by militants, the ministry highlighted.

It went on to say that Rukban camp is surrounded by a mound and a fence, beyond which US-backed militant groups do not let anyone out.

“Actually, Rukban camp has long lost its status and turned into a reservation area, where hostages are held forcibly,” Russia’s Defense Ministry pointed out.

“US forces prevent refugees from exiting the camp, while militants are forcibly holding them inside, demanding large sums of money in US dollars to let them out.

“At the same time, the UN data show that more than 35,000 Syrians want to return to the territory controlled by the Syrian government, including 28,000 to the province of Homs, 2,800 to the province of Dayr al-Zawr, 1,600 to the provinces of Rif Damashq and Hama and 1,200 to the province of Aleppo,” the ministry said.

On February 28, a Syrian official held US military forces and their allied militants responsible for the humanitarian crisis affecting thousands of internally displaced people at Rukban refugee camp.“The responsibility for the humanitarian crisis of our people at al-Rukban camp falls solely on US occupation forces and their stooges, as they have been preventing civilians’ departure by means of force and threats. This is while safe corridors have been opened for those who are willing to leave the camp,” an unnamed official at the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates was quoted by official SANA news agency as saying on Thursday.

He stressed that the Damascus government is prepared to take responsibility for securing a safe and decent return of displaced people to their hometowns.

The UN says about 45,000 people, mostly women and children, are trapped inside Rukban, where conditions are desperate. This is while Geneva-based international aid agency Doctors Without Borders has put the number there at some 60,000.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on February 25 that US forces were unlawfully deployed to al-Tanf region in southern Syria, and were training terrorists, who carry out acts of terror across Syria and prevent the return of displaced people in Rukban to their hometowns.

Last October, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said people in Rukban had been without access to food and humanitarian aid for several months, highlighting that the tough situation was further complicated with a closed border by Jordan.

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