The Rukban camp, which houses up to 25,000 refugees is located in the US-controlled zone around its unauthorised military base at Al-Tanf, making it almost impossible for humanitarian workers to access the area.
“The American side cynically seeks to take advantage of the situation concerning the spread of the coronavirus and is putting pressure on the UN leadership to bring ‘humanitarian aid’ to the Rukban refugee camp under the guise of diagnostic tools to feed controlled militants”, the interagency coordinating headquarters of Russia and Syria said in a joint statement on Saturday.
The military stressed that the disastrous situation in the camp is a result of the illegal occupation of the area by American forces, noting that the refugees should be returned to their homes in the territory under the control of the Syrian government.
Despite Washington’s previous vow to withdraw its forces from Syria, American troops are still present in various parts of the country, where they operate without permission from either the United Nations or Damascus. The US forces established the Rukban refugee camp in the area of the occupied Homs Governorate near Syria’s borders with Iraq and Jordan.
Moscow and Damascus, however, have repeatedly stated it is being used by US forces as a training base and a hideout for anti-government militants in the country.
In September 2019, the Russian centre for Syrian reconciliation stated that the so-called “camp administration, controlled by illegal armed units” refused to let UN buses inside to evacuate those in need, with an intention of keeping the refugees at Rukban as a human shield.
At the time, a significant amount of cargo delivered by the United Nations and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to Rukban was also seized by militants and moved to a base belonging to the militant group Kuwat Shahid Ahmad al-Abdo, located to the north of the camp.