Israel evacuates 800 Syria White Helmets to Jordan: army

Wednesday, 25 Jul, 2018

It was not until the following year that it took its current form and began to be known as the "White Helmets" for the distinctive hard hats worn by its members.

Israeli media identified the Syrians as belonging to the White Helmets organisation. There was no immediate response from Damascus on Sunday.

The overnight evacuation was an unprecedented operation coordinated among those countries to extract over 400 members of the search and rescue group from along the volatile frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, where they were besieged by Syrian troops.

The military operation saw the Israeli military slip hundreds of people from Syria to Jordan, though the exact numbers were still being determined; Jordanian officials initially said that 800 Syrians were rescued, though that number was later revised down to around 425. The group would be linked to a U.S. -Russian-Jordanian center set up previous year in Jordan for monitoring a cease-fire in southwest Syria, said Major-General Milkahil Mizintsev.

But while some of the White Helmets were allowed to cross into Jordan, tens of thousands of displaced Syrians remain along the border, which "the Syrian government is now firmly in control of most of it", said Dekker.

Israel has been on high alert since June 19, when Syrian government forces launched a Russia-backed offensive to retake Quneitra and Daraa and provinces, adjacent respectively to the Israeli-held section of the Golan and to Jordan.

The country added: 'The government gave the permission after Britain, Germany and Canada made a legally binding undertaking to resettle them within a specified period of time due to "a risk to their lives"'.

"They are now being assisted by the UNHCR in Jordan pending worldwide resettlement". He said the prospect of regime retaliation has forced the group's members to retreat to safer areas or flee.

The unprecedented operation was spearheaded by the U.S., Canada, and Britain, The Associated Press reported on Friday.

"Fantastic news that we - United Kingdom and friends - have secured evacuation of White Helmets and their families - thank you Israel and Jordan for acting so quickly on our request", tweeted British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

In a similar move, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was quoted by German weekly magazine Bild as saying that 50 of the evacuees would be granted asylum by Berlin.

"Humanity dictates that many of these fearless first-aiders should now find protection and refuge, some of them in Germany", it quoted German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas as saying.

Piazza said there is no evidence to support Syrian claims that the White Helmets organization has aided armed combatants or are a conduit for Islamic extremists. It added: "We feel a deep moral responsibility to these courageous and selfless people". They were the first to break news of a suspected chemical weapon attack on a hospital in Eastern Ghouta in April. Syria and Russian Federation claim the Western-backed rebels and their supportershave staged the attacks in an attempt to frame Assad's government.