Jordan says it destroyed combat vehicles crossing from Syria

Jordan says it destroyed combat vehicles crossing from Syria

AMMAN - Agence France-Presse
Jordan says it destroyed combat vehicles crossing from Syria

Jordanian security forces are seen on patrol, during a visit by reporters, at the Al-Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, April 6. REUTERS Photo

Jordanian air force fighter jets destroyed a number of combat vehicles April 16 as they tried to cross into the kingdom from war-ravaged Syria, the army said.

A Syrian military source cited by state television in Damascus said, however, that the vehicles that were struck did not belong to Syria's armed forces.

Damascus has accused Amman of backing the three-year uprising against President Bashar al-Assad by training and arming rebels, but Jordan denies this and says it has tightened its border and jailed dozens trying to cross it illegally.

Wednesday's air strikes were the first time Jordan has used fighter jets to deal with such infiltrations.

"Royal air force jets fighters today at 10:30 a.m. destroyed a number of vehicles that attempted to cross into Jordan from Syria," the Jordanian army said in a statement. "The camouflaged vehicles tried to enter from an area with rugged terrain.

"The fighter jets fired warning shots, but they were ignored, prompting them to destroy the vehicles. The army will not tolerate such actions," said the statement.

A military official told AFP in Amman that "they were three wheeled vehicles which tried to enter the kingdom" near Ruwaished, in northern Jordan.

Damascus denies that vehicles belong to regime

In Damascus, however, state television cited a military source as saying that the vehicles did not belong to the Syrian army.

"No military or armoured vehicles belonging to the Syrian army moved towards the Jordanian border, and so what was targeted by the Jordanian air force does not belong to the Syrian army," it said in a breaking news alert.

The Damascus government has regularly accused Jordan of assisting rebels fighting its forces.

But Amman denies this, saying it has tightened control of the border and jailed dozens convicted of trying to cross the frontier illegally.

Jordan's border guards in recent weeks clashed with and arrested several people as they attempted to cross from Syria into the kingdom.

The kingdom has struggled to cope with hosting more than 500,000 Syrian refugees uprooted by the conflict.

It has been careful in dealing with the devastating war, repeatedly expressing fears that it could spread, and concerns about the impact of its jihadist fighters.

The United States is also concerned about a possible spillover of violence from Syria to its southern neighbour Jordan, a key U.S. ally and one of only two Arab states to have signed a peace treaty with Israel.

King Abdullah II has vowed to protect Jordan from the Syrian war, while the United States announced its F-16 fighter jets and Patriot missile interceptors will remain in the kingdom at the end of military exercises.

At the same time, Amman says arms smuggling across the border with Syria has risen by 300 percent in the past year.

More than 150,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict broke out in March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor.