Israel evacuates White Helmets to Jordan from Syria border

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The Israeli military has evacuated hundreds of rescue workers known as White Helmets from the Syrian border and transported them to Jordan.

The volunteers were rescued from the volatile frontier area on the Golan Heights following a request by the United States and its European allies, according to officials.

It was the first such Israeli intervention in Syria’s civil war, now in its eight year.

Jordan confirmed the Syrian citizens entered its territory to be resettled in Western countries in weeks.

Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the total number of evacuees was 422, even though the initial request was to evacuate 800. It was unclear what happened to the remainder.

Mr Safadi later tweeted that Jordan approved the evacuations after a pledge from the UK, Germany and Canada that the Syrian evacuees would be resettled in three months.

The White Helmets and their families had been stranded along the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights following the Syrian government offensive in southwestern Syria which began in June.

White Helmets carry children to safety
The White Helmets have enjoyed backing from the United States and other Western nations for years (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP, File)

The Syrian government considers the group a “terrorist” organisation because it works in areas controlled by its opponents, where state institutions and services are non-existent.

The Israeli military said the overnight operation was an “exceptional humanitarian gesture” done at the request of the United States and its European allies due to “an immediate threat to the (Syrians’) lives”.

The 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.

Jordanian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Mohammed al-Kayed said the Syrians would remain in a closed area in Jordan for three months before moving on to the UK, Germany and Canada.

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

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