Published: Tue, July 24, 2018
World Media | By Cesar Oliver

'Rescuing The Rescuers': Stranded Syrian White Helmets Evacuated By Israel

'Rescuing The Rescuers': Stranded Syrian White Helmets Evacuated By Israel

The Israeli military said Sunday it had rescued members of a Syrian volunteer civil organization from the volatile frontier area and evacuated them to a third country, the first such Israeli intervention in Syria's lengthy civil war.

France's decision to omit the word "Israel" from its announcement on the mission is at odds with other Western countries such as Germany, the United States and the UK, which lauded Israel's humanitarian gesture and its protection of over 400 members of the Syrian Civil Defense organization, who "faced an immediate threat to their lives", the IDF stated.

A Syrian civil defense volunteer, known as the White Helmets, holds the body of a child after he was pulled from the rubble following a government forces air strike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of Karm Homad in the northern city of Aleppo, on October 4, 2016.

Disguised "as ordinary civilians", he says, Abu Muhannad and his family were held up at a pro-government checkpoints and told that the road ahead was closed following advances made by the Islamic State-affiliated Jaish Khaled bin al-Waleed in clashes with the Syrian army and allied groups to the west.

Hundreds of volunteer rescuers have been evacuated from southwest Syria for resettlement in Britain, Canada and Germany.

Earlier this month, CBS News broadcasting service said in a report that the issue of the White helmets' withdrawal from Syria had been raised with US President Donald Trump in multiple conversations with allied countries on the sidelines of the July 11-12 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Brussels.

Canada has offered to host up to 50 White Helmets and their families, a senior official confirmed to The Canadian Press on condition of anonymity.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry, citing an unnamed official at the ministry, said on Monday that Damascus had previously warned about the unsafe role the White Helmets were playing in undermining the security and stability in the Arab country and in the region due to their "terrorist nature".

When asked about the reports of the air strike, an Israeli military spokeswoman said: "We do not comment on foreign reports".

Eight hundred so-called "White Helmets" and their family members had taken refuge in Quneitra, the one small part of southern Syria not already under the control of Russian-backed regime forces. "There is no deal on the table with them", she added, explaining that deals reached with other groups saw the evacuation of rebels to northern parts Syria.

Since the offensive began, Jordan said it will not open its borders to the newly displaced Syrians.

Its activation came after Israel on two separate occasions this month fired Patriot missiles at incoming drones from Syria.

Foreign minister Heiko Maas was quoted as saying that "the efforts of the White Helmets deserve admiration and respect".

The Israeli military said it will continue to aid those in need but won't allow a massive influx of refugees into the country.

With the regime now reaching the end of its offensive to retake areas of southern Syria, there was an "immediate threat".

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.

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