Growing fears for Aussies in Syrian camp
An Australian grandfather fears time is running out for his daughter and grandchildren trapped in a Syrian refugee camp, but the federal government is in no rush to evacuate the family.
Kamalle Dabboussy warned it could be days before it's too late to get Mariam and the three children - aged one, three and five - out of Syria's Al-Hawl camp.
She's one of more than 60 Australians, most of them children, detained in the war-torn country.
"I miss my daughter greatly. She was my best friend and I enjoy her company and I look forward to having her with me day-to-day," Mr Dabboussy told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.
"I look forward to being a grandfather again."
A looming withdrawal of 50 US special forces troops from northeastern Syria will leave Kurdish forces vulnerable to a planned incursion by the Turkish military, which brands them terrorists.
The US began pulling troops back from the northeast Syrian border on Monday, effectively giving Turkey a green light to move into the area. Any conflict could spill over into the Al-Hawl camp.
"The Middle East is a very unstable place and it's very hard to determine how much time is left. I would suggest that it's days and certainly not much more than that," Mr Dabboussy said.
Labor wants the Morrison government to evacuate Australians from Al-Hawl.
"The opportunity, the window if you will, to safely extract the children and indeed those people who are adults is coming to a close," opposition home affairs spokeswoman Senator Kristina Keneally said.
But Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the government won't rush to evacuate them.
"We will not put Australian officials, forces or our public in danger so any repatriation will occur only if safe to do so," she said.
US President Donald Trump announced the move in a tweet, and it is unclear whether US allies were told in advance.
"The Australian government is very aware of what's been happening and I saw the report on President Trump's comments," Defence Minister Linda Reynolds told reporters.
But she did not address why the US had abandoned its support for the Kurds.
News of the US withdrawal has been met with confusion, fear and panic by Australians in Al-Hawl.
"They are by themselves and they desperately need the help of the Australian government for their survival," Mr Debboussy said.
It's not just the disease and lack of medical care, but extremists inside the camp and "sleeper cells" beyond its fences, putting his family and others at risk of death.
"We have been saying for some time that if the Australians are left there much longer, there will be an Australian death. And I firmly believe that is the case," Mr Debboussy said.
He said Mariam and other women had been duped and coerced into entering Syria and did not pose a threat to Australia. Her eldest child was born in Australia and the other two in Syria.
Mariam previously told the ABC she had been tricked into entering Syria by her husband, Kaled Zahab, after he took her on a holiday to countries including Lebanon in 2015.
Another Australian in Syria, Zehra Duman, has been stripped of her Australian citizenship after fleeing the country as a teenager to marry an Islamic State fighter.
Duman is a dual Turkish and Australian citizen.
There are concerns the decision could leave her children, aged one and three, stateless.
However, a spokeswoman said generally the cancellation of a parent's citizenship did not sever their child's ties to Australia.
© AAP 2019