White Helmets flee to Jordan

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

Raed Saleh, head of the Syrian Civil Defense as the White Helmets are also known, said a number of volunteers and their families were evacuated from a risky, besieged area and had reached Jordan. These are people who have saved lives and whose lives were in danger.

"A few days ago, President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau and others approached me with the request to help extract from Syria hundreds of White Helmets", Netanyahu said.

The White Helmets typically have operated in opposition-held areas across Syria, places where government services are nearly non-existent, voluntarily risking their lives to save hundreds of civilian lives during relentless government airstrikes and bombardments. It posted a video online showing its soldiers handing out water bottles to the evacuees.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed Sunday that Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump were among those who asked Israel to rescue the White Helmets in recent days, after leaders first talked about helping the White Helmets during the recent North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Brussels.

Damascus on Monday condemned the evacuation as a "criminal operation" undertaken by "Israel and its tools".[L5N1UJ2FC] The Russian embassy in Israel tweeted that the White Helmets were "militants", linking them with Syria's Islamist-led insurgents.

Jordan "authorized the United Nations to organize the passage of 800 Syrian citizens through Jordan to be resettled in western countries", the kingdom said.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Emmanuel Nahshon, earlier wrote on Twitter that the Jewish state carried out the operation "upon request of the US, Canada and European states".

'The WH are the bravest of the fearless and in a desperate situation this is at least one ray of hope'.

The source connected to the rescue operation of the White Helmets into Jordan via Israel told NPR the Syrian government did not offer this amnesty to the rescue workers.

This was the first such Israeli intervention in Syria's lengthy civil war, now in its eighth year.

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Israel said on Saturday that it maintains a "non-intervention policy" when it comes to the conflict in Syria.

A former resident in touch with relatives said thousands of civilians had fled bombed villages to areas held by the army or the rebels.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said that the strike targeted a "workshop supervised by Iranians where surface-to-surface missiles are made".

Though styled primarily as a rescue organization, the White Helmets have issued a number of questionable allegations against the Assad government. Israel has occupied the Golan Heights since 1967. Syrian state TV al-Ikhbariya called the evacuation a "scandal".

Russia's Interfax news agency, citing the Russian military, confirmed the same number have been taken by bus to the Idlib zone.

The rockets fell inside Syrian territory and were part of internal fighting, a military statement said.

The group has been financed by public donations, as well as funding from foreign governments.

It followed a push by Western countries including the United States to protect members of the White Helmets, volunteer emergency workers who rush to the scene of airstrikes in civilian areas.

Since 2013, the 3,000 White Helmet volunteers - also known as the Syria Civil Defence - have worked in rebel-held areas where Syria's official emergency services do not venture.

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