By Anshel Pfeffer
Senior Jordanian officials warn that Syria may devolve into a "black hole that sucks Jihadists from around the world."
They claim that despite their warnings to Western nations and Israel against this expected development in their strife-ridden northern neighbor, advanced weaponry continues to flow into the hands of Salafist and Jihadist organizations who are gradually taking over the rebellion against the regime of Bashar Assad.
The Jordanians fear that with the collapse of the current Syrian government, this weaponry, together with the experience gained by the Jihadists, will be aimed toward other targets in the region - particularly Jordan and Israel. The Jordanians saw the first signs two months ago when their intelligence service caught a cell of 11 Jordanian Salafists who had assembled in Syria and were planning, under the aegis of Al-Qaida, to attack shopping centers and Western embassies in Jordan.
Jordan is working toward the integration of all minorities in the leadership of the rebellion (including Alawites not related to the Assad family ), in order to ensure a balanced future government of Syria and to avoid a slide into Jihadist chaos.
In Jordan there has been heavy criticism of another neighbor of Syria - Turkey, which has allowed fanatics to accumulate strength and ammunition at the expense of moderate and secular rebel groups. Many of the advanced missiles financed by the Gulf states and transferred to the rebels via Turkey in the past few weeks have fallen into the hands of fanatics, despite the attempts of Jordanian and Western intelligence services to ensure that only the rebellion's moderate factions would receive them.
The secular faction of Syria's rebellion absorbed another blow this week with the death of Col. Yusef Al Jader, an armored corps officer in the Syrian army who deserted to the rebels and had been thought of as one of the more charismatic and influential commanders among them. Al Jader, better known as Abu Furat, had been trying to minimize the influence of the Jihadists. His death during the battle for the military academy north of Aleppo further weakens the strength of the secular nationalists among the rebels.
Another significant development in the Syrian conflict is the enlistment of Palestinian refugees in Damascus to the cause of the rebellion. Until recently, Palestinians in Syria avoided taking part in the conflict, inter alia because of internal divisions of opinion. Although Hamas identifies with the rebels, especially those identified with the Muslim Brotherhood, other organizations such as the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front stayed with Assad.
At the beginning of the week, the Syrian army attacked the Yarmok neighborhood, home to over 100,000 Palestinians, killing 25 with artillery fire and air attacks. As a result, a battle broke out within Yarmok between the Popular Front and Syrian rebel forces, and thousands of Palestinians began to flee the Damascus area toward the borders with Jordan and Lebanon.
Jordan established several large refugee camps for those fleeing Syria, but arriving Palestinians are kept separate, in an industrial area known as "Cyber City". Journalists are not allowed to visit the camp designated for Palestinians, and those refugees are forbidden to leave it in order to work or visit relatives.
In Jordan, where the regime is in the hands of the Hashemite dynasty and Bedouin tribes while the majority of the population is of Palestinian origin, the government is trying to avoid an additional wave of Palestinian refugees.
Arab media reports that the Jordanian army has declared a state of emergency, and that its troops have been issued gas masks in anticipation of chemical weapons being employed by the Syrian regime near the border remained unconfirmed yesterday. Nevertheless, senior Jordanian officials emphasize that they warned the world that the Syrians might use such weapons last year, and that such an eventuality will require the swift intervention of Western powers, since, according to the Jordanians, no nation in the region, including Israel, can overcome Syria's chemical weapons arsenal.
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