Syria: U.S. and Jordan readying buffer zone

3,000 rebels trained by the end of the month

03 April, 17:23

(ANSAmed) - NEW YORK, APRIL 3 - The United States and Jordan have stepped up training of Syrian opposition forces that may be used to create a buffer zone along Syria's southern border. U.S.

officials and Jordanian security sources have been quoted by the Washington Post as saying that the training of 3,000 officers of the Free Syrian Army, which began last year, would be completed next month instead of in June. The sources say that training was intensified after rebels made territorial gains in the southern part of the country and took over a strip of land along Syria's southern border near the Golan Heights. The area could be used as a buffer zone for thousands of refugees and army defectors. Over 470,000 Syrian refugees have already crossed into Jordan and the United Nations expect the number to rise to over a million this year. However, U.S. and Jordanian officials - according to the Washington Post - have underscored that no buffer zone has yet been established because the US and European countries do not intend to provide the necessary air cover to protect it from attacks by Syrian government air force on rebel bases. There are also concerns that extremist Islamic fighters might gain dominance, which has already happened in some of the country's northern areas. ''The last thing anyone wants to see is al-Qaeda gaining a foothold in southern Syria next to Israel. That is a doomsday scenario,'' said a U.S. diplomat in Jordan quoted by the Washington Post. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity, as he was not authorized to speak publicly on the subject.