White Helmets expected to be resettled in United Kingdom after rescue from Syria

Charlene Craig
July 24, 2018

Some 800 people were evacuated to Jordan via the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights overnight, Israeli media say.

A day after hundreds of volunteers with the Syrian Civil Defense were evacuated to Jordan on July 21, the European Union and others applauded the operation, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the United States and Canada drove the effort.

The Syrian Civil Defence group has been credited with saving thousands of lives by operating emergency rescue services in rebel-held areas during years of bombing attacks by Damascus and its allies.

The UK had backed an worldwide effort to rescue members of the group and their families from the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Syrian authorities have long described the Civil Defence search-and-rescue group, which are popularly known as the White Helmets, as a terror organisation.

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

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"The military action in Syria has gone down significantly, a new Syrian regime is now established, and the White Helmets play a very ambiguous role in this sense", he said.

They are expected to be resettled in the UK, Germany, and Canada.

Those successfully evacuated included about 100 White Helmets, with the rest family members.

"White Helmets have been the target of attacks and, due to their high profile, we judged that, in these particular circumstances, the volunteers required immediate protection", it said.

Israel rescued some 800 members of a Syrian humanitarian organization and their families from southern Syria.

"Canada, working in close partnership with the United Kingdom and Germany, has been leading an worldwide effort to ensure the safety of White Helmets and their families", she said. This time, however, the buses were heading into Israeli-occupied territory, and were ultimately bound for Jordan, where Syrian evacuees are now awaiting the completion of resettlement procedures to countries outside the region.

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It was the first such intervention the country has had in Syria's civil war, now in its eighth year.

"These are hard hours and minutes", the White Helmets volunteer in Quneitra said, speaking on condition of anonymity, in fear of his life.

"I appreciated the words that were spoken by President Putin together with President Trump regarding the security of Israel during the recent summit", Netanyahu said after the meeting, in remarks relayed by his office.

"Jordan is willing and encouraging the return when tension calms down because the refugees constitute a heavy burden on the kingdom in the light of the global community's inability to cover the costs", she said.

Hundreds of the White Helmets have been killed throughout the Syrian conflict.

Before the meeting, Netanyahu said he would tell the envoys that "Israel insists on the separation of forces agreement between us and Syria being honoured, as they were honoured for decades until the civil war in Syria broke out".

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Close to one million Syrians are registered with the U.N.'s refugee agency in Lebanon.

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