Jordan to transfer Syria White Helmets to UK, Canada, Germany

23 Juillet, 2018, 14:40 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Jordan to transfer Syria White Helmets to UK, Canada, Germany

There's a real sense of tragedy that this had to happen at all.

Sources told Al Jazeera the fighters pointed their guns at the buses and asked that the drivers stop the vehicles.

Officially called the Syrian Civil Defense but known by their distinctive white helmets, the group has operated a rescue service in rebel-held parts of Syria after aerial bombing of civilian areas.

It is not clear if the White Helmets who have been previously evacuated to Idlib from other parts of Syria will receive similar treatment.

Since the offensive began, Jordan said it will not open its borders to the newly displaced Syrians.

One day after Israel evacuated some 800 Syrian White Helmets, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the action "an important humanitarian step", according to a statement his office released on Sunday. "The number requested was 800 but the actual number settled at 422", he added.

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

Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.

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Some 422 people, including women and children, crossed from Syria into the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights before travelling on into Jordan - an nearly unprecedented display of military and diplomatic co-operation between Israel and an Arab state.

Those successfully evacuated included about 100 White Helmets, with the rest family members. Islamic State (IS) and other militant groups have also been involved in the fighting but have mainly been driven from their strongholds. "Help us and save our lives".

On Sunday, Jeremy Hunt, Britain's new foreign secretary, who recently replaced Boris Johnson, took to Twitter to trumpet the evacuation: "Fantastic news that we - United Kingdom and friends - have secured evacuation of White Helmets and their families. We therefore took steps with the aim of affording that protection to as numerous volunteers and their families as possible".

This included a number trapped between the border with the Golan Heights and advancing Russia-backed regime troops. Many have amassed near sealed borders with Israel and Jordan, and are surviving high desert temperatures with little more than a tent or informal shelter for protection.

Numerous fighters surrendered under Russian-brokered deals and were transported to rebel-held areas in the north of the country. These are people that saved lives and were found in life-threatening danger.

The group, which often publish dramatic videos of themselves digging civilians out of rubble, has been lauded for their heroism but have also been criticized by supporters of Syria's government and its ally Russian Federation, who accuse them of being a front group for Al-Qaeda or acting in Western interests.

The rescue workers and their families who evacuated to Jordan will now be resettled overseas. They operate mostly in rebel-held territory where almost all civil services have collapsed.

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