Hundreds of Syrian ‘White Helmets’ evacuated to Jordan

The evacuation of 800 members with their families came at the request of the United States and several European countries.

Occupied Jerusalem: About 800 members of Syria’s White Helmets civil defence group and their families were evacuated via Israel to Jordan over night on Sunday from southwest Syria, where a Russian-backed Syrian government offensive is under way.

In a statement, the Israeli military said it had completed “a humanitarian effort to rescue members of a Syrian civil organisation and their families … due to an immediate threat to their lives”.

It said they were transferred to a neighbouring country, which it did not identify, and that the evacuation came at the request of the United States and several European countries.

Israeli media identified the Syrians as belonging to the White Helmets organisation. Officially called the Syrian Civil Defense but known by their distinctive white helmets, the group has operated a rescue service in rebel-held parts of Syria.

The evacuation reportedly began at 9:30pm on Saturday evening, when the United Nations assisted the White Helmets personnel to cross safely into the contested Syria’s region of Golan Heights.

The Jordanian Foreign Ministry said in a press release that Jordan allowed the United Nations to arrange a passage of some 800 Syrian refugees through its territory for their further resettlement to Western states that agreed to accept them.

Jordan’s official Petra news agency said on its website the kingdom “authorised the United Nations to organise the passage of about 800 Syrian citizens through Jordan for resettlement in Western countries”.

Petra said they would remain in a closed area in Jordan and that Britain, Germany and Canada had agreed to resettle them within three months.

The Time has quoted on Thursday two US officials “the US, Britain and Canada are spearheading the evacuation that would transport members of the White Helmets group to transit camps in neighboring countries. From there, they will be sent to third countries, including Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and possibly Canada.”

US ‘saddened and horrified’ at killing of White Helmets

The White Helmets volunteer group considers itself a non-governmental organisation aimed at protecting Syrian civilians. However, Syria’s President Bashar Assad accused them of helping to stage the chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta’s Douma on April 7 that prompted the United States, the United Kingdom and France to launch more than 100 missiles on multiple targets in Syria one week later.

According to CNN “the evacuation of about 1,000 White Helmets’ members and their families from Syria was discussed during the NATO summit last week amid the progress the Syrian government is making in regaining control over the rebel-controlled regions.”

The Syrian military, backed by a Russian air campaign, has been pushing into the edges of Quneitra province following an offensive last month that routed rebels in adjoining Deraa province who were once backed by Washington, Jordan and Gulf states.

The offensive has restored Syrian government control over a swathe of the southwest, strategic territory at the borders with Jordan and Israel.

With input from Reuters

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