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21 March 2003 / 18 Muharram 1424
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Mohammed AlKhereiji
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Missile Attack ‘Came From Jordan’
Mohammed Alkhereiji, Arab News War Correspondent

JORDAN-IRAQ BORDER CROSSING, 21 March 2003 — A rest stop 200 kilometers west of Baghdad was pulverized by a missile attack yesterday, which Iraqi soldiers claim originated from Jordan.

A Jordanian truck driver named Ahmed Youssef was killed in the attack in the area of Badiea Al-Ambaar.

Iraqi military claims that their radar shows the missile originated from Jordan, although Jordanian authorities claimed that no attacks would be launched from there.

A Jordanian bus driver was harassed and verbally abused by Iraqi soldiers after the incident and was told: “You’re next. Your time will come.”

According to eyewitness reports, another missile hit a communication tower five kilometers outside the Jordanian-Iraqi border in an area called Trabil.

The Iraqi-Jordanian border was closed for journalists, and the whole of the border region has been declared a closed zone. The military at the checkpoint is only allowing Jordanians to return home.

According to a soldier, in the first seven hours after the start of the bombing over 200 people returned from Iraq. None of them are Iraqis. Many were students, mostly from Baghdad University.

Amjad a 20-year-old student, told Arab News: “I was pressured to come back by my family. The Iraqi Army is ready, and won’t give up for 60 years.”

There are a number of privately owned buses on the border ready to ferry Jordanians to Amman.

In the black desert area of Al-Azraq, Iraqi truck drivers carrying oil are stuck.

Jasem Khalef has been there for three days. “I would rather have a bullet in my head. It is sad I can’t go back to Iraq and fight,” he said.

UN relief bodies warned yesterday of a major humanitarian crisis. “It can be catastrophic...The humanitarian situation at the moment is very bad,” Veronique Taveau, spokesperson for the UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq told reporters.

The collapse of the UN-backed oil-for-food program after the United Nations ordered its international staff to leave Iraq on Monday threatens food supplies to 60 percent of the country’s 25 million people.

Taveau said electricity cuts could lead to water contamination and a spread of epidemics with approaching hot summer weather.

“Being on the ground in Iraq we know the fragility of the Iraqi population because of 13 years of sanctions and because of the dependency of the population on the oil for food program,” Taveau added.

Khaled Mansour, spokesman for the World Food Program (WFP), the world’s largest food aid agency, said Iraqis have about six weeks of food supplies in reserve but warehouse stocks were almost empty.

UN agencies have already positioned hundreds of tonnes of relief supplies in the region, including medicines, nutritional supplements for children and water equipment as part of broader UN effort to help victims.

Geoffrey Keel, spokesman for the UN children’s fund UNICEF, said they were racing to bolster the strength of over 400,000 malnourished Iraqi children across the country to improve their chances of survival in war.

Half of Iraq’s population are children, and although conditions have improved in the last few years, malnutrition remains very high, Keel said.

Keel said it was still unclear the extent of damage a war would inflict.

“It depends on what shape a conflict will take and how long the conflict will last and what impact it will have on the infrastructure — these are questions that do not have answers at this point,” Keel said.

UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) spokesman Barry Camf said major war would worsen the already desperate food situation in Iraq.

Peter Kessler, spokesman for the UN refugee agency UNHCR, said the agency was bracing for a possible 600,000 Iraqi refugees. The refugee camps in Ruweished are empty.

There are tents, mobile toilets, but no medical facilities. A mobile hospital is likely to be positioned courtesy of Ruweished Hospital.

Meanwhile, the European Union said yesterday it was allocating 21 million euros in humanitarian aid for Iraq and promised to seek extra resources from the general emergency reserve of the community’s budget if further need arises.

Poul Nielson, the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, said the funds would be channeled through ECHO, the Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Office, and would provide basic relief items such as medical supplies, tents, blankets and food to assist displaced Iraqis.

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