White Helmet rescue workers still trapped in Syria

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Around 800 White Helmet rescue workers and their families have been evacuated from Syria by Israel "due to an immediate threat to their lives".

Hundreds of them were stuck in a pocket of southern Syria, fearing advancing Syrian government forces.

Through videos, pictures, and social media, the White Helmets are widely seen as having played an important role in showing the global community the horrors of the Syrian civil war. "I therefore authorised their transfer via Israel to other countries as an important humanitarian gesture", Netanyahu said.

Israeli media identified the Syrians as belonging to the White Helmets organisation.

Canada has been among several countries that have provided moral and financial support to the White Helmets, which are officially known as Syria Civil Defence, including $7.5 million over the past two years to help recruit and train women.


Syrian forces launched their southern offensive on June 19, targeting the province of Daraa on the border with Jordan, before turning their attention to neighbouring Quneitra.

The evacuated White Helmets had been working in an area controlled by the Syrian opposition in the south-west of the country and had been trapped by a government offensive.

"We are in a bus with around sixty people young men and families and about to leave and become uprooted from our homes", said Maher Ali, 38, an activist who decided with his family to leave than risk retribution for his long record of peaceful opposition to President Bashar al Assad's authoritarian rule.

More than 20,000 civilians have fled bombardment on the IS-held corner on the border with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan in the past 24 hours, fleeing into regime-held areas, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

An Israeli government source confirmed Israel's military had rescued 800 people who were taken to Jordan.


The Israeli military in coordination with its US and European allies evacuated hundreds of Syrian rescue workers known as the White Helmets from near its volatile frontier with Syria, in a complex and first-of-a-kind operation.

The White Helmet volunteers and their families will be held in a "restricted area" of Jordan and assessed by the United Nations, pending resettlement.

In a statement Monday, a foreign ministry official called the evacuation a "smuggling operation" that also reveals Israel's involvement in the Syrian war despite its claims to the contrary.

Many of these displaced persons are opponents of the Assad-regime and they are "extremely nervous" according to a Syrian humanitarian aid worker in Quneitra. It marked the first such Israeli intervention in Syria's civil war, now in its eighth year.

The IDF published a statement on Twitter and said: "Following the reports of sirens sounding in northern Israel, it was concluded that the rockets were from internal fighting in Syria, where they later fell".


Meanwhile, the Russian Embassy in the Netherlands welcomed the departure of the "notorious" White Helmets.

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