Rebels reach north Syria after south evacuations

Adjust Comment Print

400 White Helmet volunteers and their families have been evacuated from southwest Syria to Jordan via Israel to await new lives in the United States of America and Europe.

"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.

"The White Helmets have saved over 115,000 lives during the Syrian conflict, at great risk to their own", Jeremy Hunt, the British foreign secretary, and Penny Mordaunt, the U.K.'s worldwide development secretary said in a joint statement.

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.

Israel has been sending medical aid to civilians who have fled fighting in the Syrian-controlled part of the Golan Heights.

Jordan's official Petra news agency said on its website the kingdom "authorized the United Nations to organize the passage of about 800 Syrian citizens through Jordan for resettlement in Western countries".

In this Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015 file photo, comrades carry Ilias Mahmoud al-Taweel, a member of Syrian Civil Defence, or White Helmets, during his funeral in in Douma, the suburbs of Damascus.

"They were trapped in a unsafe area and arrived in Jordan now", the volunteer group said.

US President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked Israel to evacuate the members of the controversial Western-backed White Helmets group from Syria, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has revealed.

The Syrian government, backed by its ally Russian Federation have seized back control of much of southwest Syria, the area where the insurgency against President Assad first began in 2011.

VideoIncredibly, this young girl was pulled alive from rubble in the Syrian city of Douma, after intense aerial bombardments.


The request came as the civil defense volunteers were threatened by advancing forces of the Syrian regime in the south of the war-ravaged country, where President Bashar Al-Assad's forces are waging an intensive campaign to retake the last rebel-held pockets of the region bordering both Israel and Jordan.

Last week the Syrian regime reached a deal through which the rebel groups in the area, defeated and encircled, could surrender. "We judged that, in these particular circumstances, the volunteers required immediate protection".

"The transfer of the displaced Syrians through Israel is an exceptional humanitarian gesture", the IDF said.

Euronews has contacted the White Helmets for comment on the reports.

Planning for the evacuation had been taking place for some time but speeded up following a recent North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Brussels.

More than 250 White Helmets have been killed in the war since 2013. Thousands of civilians had taken shelter near the frontier to escape the government offensive.

The Syrian government and Russian Federation have labelled the White Helmets as foreign "agents" and have accused them of staging scenes of alleged chemical weapons attacks.

They are viewed as heroic, fearless and selfless rescue workers who've saved hundreds of lives, through the brutal course of Syria's war.

The plan had been to evacuate 800 White Helmets and their families, but only 422 made it.

Canada, Germany and Britain have agreed to take in the volunteers.

Comments