The whole shooting appeared to be an ambush by the Syrian troops, who were likely tipped off to the escape plan by an informer in Daraa, said the two FSA members who helped organize the dash for the border. They noted that the troops were waiting behind the trees for the group. The two FSA members, one of whom was now hosting Umm Bilal and her two surviving sons at a house in northern Jordan, spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity over their group’s presence in the kingdom.
Syrian army troops frequently fire at those trying to cross the border to stop them, but not always — it depends on whether they are busy with quelling protests or rebels in nearby towns, the Jordanian border official said. Around 700 Syrians crossed on Thursday with no shots fired at them.
Last November, one woman was shot in the leg. In April, troops fired at a large group of around 900 refugees, wounding dozens, many of whom — including women — were then arrested and taken back into Syria.
But el-Lababidi is the first person to be killed, the border official and other Jordanian officials said. An FSA commander based in Turkey who monitors the border movements into Jordan, Ahmed Kassem, also said the boy was the first killed.
Jordan has been trying not to be dragged into what is now a civil war in Syria. In Amman, Information Minister Sameeh Maaytah insisted that Friday’s shooting “will not draw Jordan into Syria’s crisis.”
“This unfortunate incident is an internal Syrian matter,” he told The Associated Press.
Jordan had been even reluctant to set up the tents camps near the border that house most of the Syrian refugees, possibly to avoid angering Assad’s autocratic regime by showing images at his doorstep of civilians fleeing his military onslaught. While Syria’s rebels are present among the refugees and buy weapons in Jordan’s black market, they must lie low and the government says it gives them no support.
Syria has been one of Jordan’s largest Arab trade partners, with bilateral trade estimated at $470 million last year — and Syria is a vital route for Jordanian exports to markets in Turkey and Europe.
Last Sunday, Jordan’s king announced that security along his northern frontier has been tightened, but Syrian refugees fleeing violence will still be allowed to enter.
“It is our duty to protect citizens, but at the same time, we have to open our doors to our Syrian brothers, and I’m very optimistic that the situation is moving in the right direction,” King Abdullah II said at a Cabinet session.
• Associated Press writer Dale Gavlak in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.