#BreakingSyria: Refugee Crisis on the Jordan Border

Warning shots allegedly fired as more refugees stream toward Jordan from Daraa, Syria

(Source: Twitter / @QalaatAlMudiq)

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) continued to bring the fight to the remaining pockets of rebel resistance. Efforts are currently focused on Daraa province in the southern part of Syria. As this large-scale offensive took momentum, thousands of civilians fled the terrors of war, leaving their homes behind.

Large numbers of civilians headed toward the nearby Jordanian border and set up makeshift camps. As the official position of the Jordanian government is to not take in more refugees, @DFRLab took a closer look at the developing situation at the Syrian-Jordanian border in the Daraa province.

On June 24, the Jordanian government warned they could not accept any more refugees. Minister of State for Media Affairs Jumana Ghunaimat explained:

“We have received enough numbers of Syrian refugees; we already have a large number and we simply cannot receive more”.

Jordan already hosts 1.3 million Syrian refugees and is struggling to meet their needs. According to Ghunamait, those who are responsible for the escalation of the conflict in the area should take responsibility for the humanitarian aid.

On June 29, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) posted a map and a report regarding the situation in the Daraa region. According to OCHA, as of June 28, the ongoing hostilities displaced between 62,000 and 66,000 civilians and will reach 160,000 soon if conditions continue to persist. OCHA also provided a map, which illustrated the main routes of the fleeing refugees. Most routes pointed toward the Jordanian border.

Main refugee fleeing routes. Left: (Source: Twitter / @OCHA_Syria); Right: (Source: GoogleMaps).

Around the same time, photos of the refugees moving toward the Jordanian border emerged on social media. These photos, posted on June 30, provided a glimpse into the situation at the border.

The photos showed a large group of Syrian refugees arriving at the Jordanian border. A gate guarded by armed Jordanian soldiers was visible only a few dozen meters away from the location where the refugees massed. Judging by the photos, Syrians sat down next to the gates but did not move any closer. Because these photos were taken in panoramic snapshots, it was easier to geolocate the exact border crossing where the refugees gathered.

Geolocation picture #1. Left: (Source: GoogleMaps); Right: (Source: Twitter / @QalaatAlMudiq).

No security forces or border patrols were visible on the Syrian side of the border, while the Jordanian border was patrolled by a few armed soldiers.

Geolocation picture #2. Left: (Source: GoogleMaps); Right: (Source: Twitter / @QalaatAlMudiq).

The panoramic photo also confirmed the location a few hundred meters west of one of the main Syrian-Jordanian crossings—the Nassib border crossing — which has been closed since 2015.

Geolocation picture #3. Left: (Source: GoogleMaps); Right: (Source: Twitter / @QalaatAlMudiq).

A video also appeared on June 30, claiming to have recorded Jordanian soldiers firing warning shots near a large group of refugees. Gunshots can be clearly heard in the video and the size of the refugee group was similar to the one in the photos. Due to the poor quality of the video, it was not possible to accurately geolocate the area. According to a reverse image search, the video was not posted before.

Conclusion

The situation in the south of Syria worsened as the SAA launched a large-scale attack on the Daraa region. A senior United Nations (UN) official warned that this offensive not only endangered the fragile peace process, but it could also potentially provoke a humanitarian crisis worse than that which followed the siege of Aleppo.

By various estimates, at least 62,000 people were already displaced in the area and these numbers are likely to rise. Jordanian Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz declared that his country would not receive new refugees from Syria under any circumstances. As more Syrians make their way to the Jordanian border and set up makeshift camps, a humanitarian crisis is likely to build.

@DFRLab will continue to monitor significant military developments and operations in Syria.


Lukas Andriukaitis is a Digital Forensic Research Associate at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (@DFRLab).

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