Jordan Warns Syrian Jihadi Fighters May Target it and Israel Next

Free Syrian Army fighter combats government forces north of Aleppo, Syria on Saturday (AP Photo)

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz is quoting senior Jordanian government officials who are worried radical Syrian Jihadists now fighting President Bashar Assad’s forces will eventually train their weapons on neighboring Jordan and Israel.

Correspondent Anshel Pfeffer reports from Amman:

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.

Pfeffer writes that Jordanians are also angry with Turkey which is allowing radical Islamists to obtain weaponry “at the expense of moderate and secular rebel groups.” He reports:

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 Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has been spared the so-called “Arab Spring” revolutions that deposed the rulers in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. Jordanian officials are now concerned on two fronts: that radical Syrian Jihadis could inspire homegrown Islamists in Jordan to threaten the rule of King Abdullah, and that in a last-minute desperate act, Syria’s Assad could try to deflect the pressure on him by exporting the conflict to Jordan.

The Jordanian government is feeling further heat from reports that Palestinians are becoming more embroiled in the Syrian conflict. Earlier this week, Syrian forces twice bombed the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus after rebels seized large parts of the camp. While President Assad was for years a supporter of radical Palestinian groups like Hamas, most Palestinians now back the rebels. This, even as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command is fighting on Assad’s side.

The violence has prompted civilians to flee the camp. Now Jordan, which already has a majority Palestinian population, is worried more Palestinians will cross its border. More than 500,000 Syrian refugees have fled to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, according to the Associated Press.

To deal with the crisis, Jordan set up refugee camps for the fleeing Syrians, though it keeps Palestinians in a separate area called “Cyber City.”

Haaretz quotes the Arabic media which reports the Jordanian army has declared a state of emergency, with troops issued gas masks in the event Syrian forces decide to employ chemical weapons.

Earlier this week, a radical Salafist leader in Jordan warned in a fiery speech that after rebels depose Assad, they will look south and aim for Israel.

Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Tahawi said: “We tell Benjamin Netanyahu, the (Israeli) prime minister, get ready. The army of the Prophet Mohammad is coming your way.”