Turkey and Jordan Brace for the Worst as War Fever Grips the Region

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Israelis aren’t the only ones in the region bracing themselves for a possible American attack on Syria; other nations that share a border with Syria are also tense, fearing a regional campaign that is liable to involve further use of chemical weapons.

Jordan seems to be the most concerned, as expressed by the stream of reports coming from Amman and the cities and regions adjacent to the Syrian border.

“Naturally it’s the talk of the day and the tension is great,” a Jordanian intellectual and resident of Amman told Haaretz yesterday evening. “I can attest that the pace of commerce and the markets in Amman are showing signs of a slowdown in the past week. There’s no doubt that people are concerned – perhaps in Amman less so, since it is the capital, after all, and there’s faith that the army, with the help of outside forces, will prevent any harm to the city. But as you get closer to the northern regions that are near the Syrian border, the situation is decidedly different.”

According to this man, Jordanian authorities have not distributed gas masks to the population, or discussed doing so, but the issue comes up in conversation.

“There are companies that are already trying to make some business from this and are talking about importing large quantities of masks,” he said. “The question is the timing, since everyone expects such an attack to occur within days and it’s impossible to organize this in such a short period of time.”

Families residing in areas north of Amman are talking about moving southward, perhaps even to Aqaba, adjacent to Eilat, out of fear that Syria might seek to avenge a U.S. attack by firing missiles into Jordan. The Jordanian newspaper Al-Ghad yesterday published a lengthy article in which residents of the country’s northern districts expressed concern that the violence might spill over into country, and quoted families preparing to evacuate southward.

In Turkey the situation is similar, particularly in the southern regions that abut the Syrian border, which have already suffered rocket and mortar fire since the civil war in Syria began. Official sources in Turkey reported that the government has started to distribute gas masks in population concentrations near the Syrian border. The Turkish government’s Crisis Management Center said in a Twitter message yesterday that bunkers have been established in seven areas along the border to help protect the area’s population. It was also reported that a team of some 100 experts in chemical warfare have been sent to the border region to monitor developments.

Turkish assessments are that the country is liable to be attacked because of its declared stance against the Assad regime and in support of the Syrian rebels.

In Lebanon there is also great concern about recent developments. But officials there concede that the repercussions of the Syrian civil war have already crossed the border, as evident in a series of explosions in the country and in the escalating tensions between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims in Lebanon.

A Syrian refugee girl walks at a temporary refugee camp in the eastern Lebanese town of Marj near the border with Syria. August 28, 2013.Credit: AP

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