Israel evacuates White Helmets to Jordan from Syria border
Jordan approved the evacuations after a pledge from the UK, Germany and Canada that the Syrian evacuees would be resettled in three months.
The Israeli military has evacuated hundreds of rescue workers known as White Helmets from the Syrian border and transported them to Jordan.
The volunteers were rescued from the volatile frontier area on the Golan Heights following a request by the United States and its European allies, according to officials.
It was the first such Israeli intervention in Syria’s civil war, now in its eight year.
Following an Israeli Government directive and at the request of the United States and additional European countries, the IDF recently completed a humanitarian effort to rescue members of a Syrian civil organization and their families— Israel Defense Forces (@IDFSpokesperson) July 22, 2018
The civilians were evacuated from the war zone in Southern Syria due to an immediate threat to their lives. The transfer of the displaced Syrians through Israel is an exceptional humanitarian gesture— Israel Defense Forces (@IDFSpokesperson) July 22, 2018
Jordan confirmed the Syrian citizens entered its territory to be resettled in Western countries in weeks.
Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the total number of evacuees was 422, even though the initial request was to evacuate 800. It was unclear what happened to the remainder.
Mr Safadi later tweeted that Jordan approved the evacuations after a pledge from the UK, Germany and Canada that the Syrian evacuees would be resettled in three months.
The White Helmets and their families had been stranded along the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights following the Syrian government offensive in southwestern Syria which began in June.
The group, which operates in opposition-held areas, is often targeted in Syrian government attacks on its members and facilities.
The Syrian government considers the group a “terrorist” organisation because it works in areas controlled by its opponents, where state institutions and services are non-existent.
The Israeli military said the overnight operation was an “exceptional humanitarian gesture” done at the request of the United States and its European allies due to “an immediate threat to the (Syrians’) lives”.
The civilians were subsequently transferred to a neighboring country. Israel continues to maintain a non-intervention policy regarding the Syrian conflict and continues to hold the Syrian regime accountable for all activities in Syrian territory— Israel Defense Forces (@IDFSpokesperson) July 22, 2018
The military said its actions did not reflect a change to Israel’s non-intervention policy in Syria’s war, where all the warring parties are considered hostile.
Jordanian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Mohammed al-Kayed said the Syrians would remain in a closed area in Jordan for three months before moving on to the UK, Germany and Canada.
Raed Saleh, head of the Syrian Civil Defence as the White Helmets are also known, said a number of volunteers and their families were evacuated from a dangerous, besieged area and had reached Jordan.