Why the jihadist attack on Jordan is unprecedented
A suicide bomb attack that killed seven soldiers at a forward Jordanian military outpost at Rukban, where the borders of Syria, Jordan and Iraq meet, represents an unprecedented development in the series of assaults on Jordan.
Unlike three previous incidents in Jordan since November, on June 21st the attacker came from outside the country, pointing to a serious breach of the well-fortified Jordanian crossing with Syria. This by itself constitutes a qualitative development in the means used by the terrorist groups against Jordan.
The prevailing view in Amman is that the attack in Rukban, close to a Syrian refugee camp, was carried out by the Islamic State (ISIS). However, it is noteworthy that the group did not claim responsibility. Security experts have been unable to explain the behaviour of ISIS, which rarely hesitates in taking responsibility for attacks by its fighters and supporters.
Military and security experts expressed concern that the Rukban camp, which houses 60,000 Syrian refugees in the demilitarised zone between the two countries, could prove to be Jordan’s “soft underbelly”. Especially since the camp mainly houses refugees who have fled areas dominated by ISIS in north-eastern Syria.
While there had been calls for increased efforts to relieve the humanitarian suffering of those trapped at the border, the June 21st attack led to Jordan shutting its frontier to the Syrian refugees.
The terrorists took advantage of the “sole humanitarian corridor” used by international humanitarian organisations to send much-needed assistance to refugees fleeing embattled areas to reach a post of the Jordanian Army, General Security and Civil Defence. The post is entrusted with supervising the delivery of aid and helping Syrian families crossing the Jordanian border.
This crossing point had seen an increased flow of refugees, with a daily estimate of 50-100.
The attack shocked the Jordanian public and provoked wide condemnation. It sparked a heated debate about what Jordan should do to confront the increased terrorism threat.
While some called for a review of Jordan’s alliances and cooperation with the Syrian regime in southern Syria to chase away ISIS, others considered that Jordan was in “a state of war” that requires more than just closing the borders with Syria.
Some speculated that the attack would delay parliamentary elections set for September 20th.
It is unlikely, however, that the attack will lead to a drastic change in Jordan’s regional alliances or to its internal agenda, such as postponing parliamentary elections. That in itself would be a triumph for the terrorists.