Washington, Jan. 12 – Countries bordering Syria are feeling the effects of the country’s nearly two-year war. Actions both by the regime in Damascus and opposition forces seeking its overthrow have forced Syria’s neighbors to scramble as they work to contain blowback from the crisis. Tactics by Bashar al-Assad's regime have created waves of refugees seeking shelter across Syria’s borders, while statements by jihadist elements that are increasingly prominent among the rebels have created fears of widening regional instability.
Concerns regarding multiple scenarios for deterioration – ranging from attacks on Israeli soldiers to the use of strategic weapons against Israeli civilians – were behind an Israeli announcement last week that the country would construct a security fence along the Syrian-Israeli border. Islamist forces in Syria have indicated that they would turn against the Jewish state after seizing control of Syria, and there are concerns that rebel groups will be able to overrun and seize portions of the chemical and biological weapon stockpile that the Syrian army is known to possess.
Israel has had notable success building and maintaining anti-infiltration fences. Israel’s fence along the Gaza Strip has been almost completely successful in preventing terrorist infiltration over the span of decades, while the country’s fence along the West Bank – built in the midst of a war waged by Palestinian terrorists – was linked to a near-total halt in attacks from that region.
Harsh weather conditions in neighboring Jordan have exacerbated tensions inside refugee camps housing hundreds of thousands of refugees originating in Palestinian refugee camps inside Syria.
Riots broke out at the Zaatari refugee camp, and Jordan army troops were called in to quell rioters who attacked aid workers. The geopolitical and diplomatic dynamics of Palestinian refugees from Syria who have fled to Jordan are not straightforward. Israel has offered to assist moving those refugees to Palestinian-controlled territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but those offers have been rebuffed by Palestinian leaders, who are reportedly concerned that such moves would vitiate Palestinian claims to territory inside Israel’s 1949 armistice lines.