Jordan takes in Syrian 'White Helmets' evacuated with Israeli help

Civil Defence rescue children after what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al Assad in al Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo Syria Jun 2 2014. Reuters

Civil Defence rescue children after what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al Assad in al Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo Syria Jun 2 2014. Reuters

Israel's military said the overnight operation was "an exceptional humanitarian gesture" at the request of the United States and European allies due to an "immediate threat to the (Syrians) lives".

A Jordanian foreign ministry spokesman said the kingdom had allowed the U.N.to arrange the entry and passage of the 800 West-backed opposition activists, saying that their lives were in danger after a government offensive that regained opposition-held parts of southern Syria. "We have managed to rescue the rescuers". There's a real sense of tragedy that this had to happen at all.

The Syrian government on Monday condemned Israel's weekend evacuation of the White Helmets civil defense group from the war-torn country and into Jordan.

Syrian Civil Defence volunteers, also known as the White Helmets, and Syrian Red Crescent members evacuate a wounded woman following a reported airstrike that targeted the Idlib bus station on January 18, 2017.

The offensive, begun in June, has seen a number of agreements that have led to the evacuation of rebel forces from the Deraa and Quneitra areas to regions further north.

"More than half of the evacuees are women and children", said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

"Given the speed of the movements on the ground it really was a Hail Mary operation", he said.

"We'd like to ask why they are not fleeing to Syria, why they don't want to return to the Syrian society?"

The Syrian government managed to get full control over a strategic territory at the border with Jordan following the operation.

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Southwest Syria, a prized region for almost all stakeholders in Syria's war due to its strategic position bordering both Jordan and the Israel with close proximity to Damascus, has been under heavy bombardment by Assad's forces which launched an offensive last month to take over the last remaining strongholds of rebels in that part of the country.

The White Helmets have enjoyed backing and received finances and training from the United States and other Western nations for years.

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.

In a statement posted to Twitter, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said they carried out the evacuation at the request of the United States and European countries. USA officials said the volunteers at the border were likely to be targeted by the government advance. He also warned that Israel will protect its security interests on its northern and southern borders.

Last week the Syrian regime reached a deal through which the rebel groups in the area, defeated and encircled, could surrender. The Syrian rockets landed inside Syrian territory.

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

The Syrian and Russian air forces have repeatedly targeted rescue workers, sometimes launching follow-up strikes as a team sifts the wreckage for civilians.

President Bashar Assad has called the White Helmets part of al-Qaeda in Syria.

The opposition said the Syrian army were expected to be deployed in areas abandoned by rebels once the evacuations are completed and heavy weapons given up by rebels.

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