Hundreds of Syrian "White Helmets" evacuated through Israel to Jordan

Lester Mason
July 22, 2018

Israel confirmed the evacuation and said that the transfer was an "exceptional humanitarian gesture" done at the request of the "United States and additional European countries".

The Israeli military said that overnight it had completed "a humanitarian effort to rescue members of a Syrian civil organization and their families.due to an immediate threat to their lives".

The Israeli military said its actions did not reflect a change to Israel's non-intervention policy in Syria's war, where all the warring parties are considered hostile.

Raed Saleh, head of the Syrian Civil Defense as the White Helmets are also known, said a number of volunteers and their families were evacuated from a risky, besieged area and had reached Jordan.

About 800 members of Syria's White Helmets civil defense group and their families were evacuated via Israel to Jordan on Sunday from southwest Syria, where a Russian-backed Syrian government offensive is under way, media said.

Canada's foreign minister Chrystia Freeland said: "Canada, working in close partnership with the United Kingdom and Germany, has been leading an global effort to ensure the safety of White Helmets and their families".

Jordan authorised the United Nations to organise the passage of 800 Syrian citizens through Jordan to be resettled in western countries, the kingdom said.

"The [Jordanian] government gave the permission after Britain, Germany and Canada made a legally binding undertaking to resettle them within a specified period due to a "risk to their lives", the kingdom said.

The Syrians would remain in Jordan for three months before moving on to Britain, Germany and Canada, the Jordanian Foreign Ministry's spokesman Mohammed al-Kayed said.

Euronews has contacted the White Helmets for comment on the reports.

Members of the White Helmets are seen inspecting the damage at a Roman ruin site in Daraa Syria
Image Members of the White Helmets inspect the damage at a Roman ruin site in Daraa Syria

Since its formation, more than 200 of its volunteers have died and another 500 have been wounded.

The group have been taken to Jordan where they have been given temporary asylum.

Raed Saleh, the head of the White Helmets, said the evacuees had arrived in Jordan after being "surrounded in a risky region". United States officials said the volunteers at the border were likely to be targeted by the government advance.

He said on Twitter that the White Helmets will release an official statement on the matter on Monday.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said she "called for global leadership to support and help these heroes" during a meeting of foreign ministers at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders' summit in Brussels a week ago.

Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.

Israel, which technically remains in a state of war with Syria, has been watching the development near its border closely.

'The civilians were subsequently transferred to a neighbouring country, ' it said without elaborating.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled their homes since Russian-backed government troops launched a major offensive to capture rebel-held territory in the country's south.

More than 650,000 Syrian refugees are registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Jordan but the kingdom says it hosts 1.3 million Syrian refugees. In the past two years, the Israeli military says it has delivered more than 1,500 tons of food, 250 tons of clothing and almost a million liters of fuel.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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