Over a hundred members of the Syrian Civil Defence team popularly known as Syria’s White Helmets along with their family members have been evacuated from Syria’s south-western province overnight. Israeli military said it carried out the "humanitarian" evacuation – its first such intervention in Syria's eight-year-war, after a request made by the United States and its European allies.
The White Helmets group has been evacuated through Israel into Jordan. The exact number of those evacuated is yet to be confirmed but various news agencies put them between 450 to 800 people.
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
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 22, 2018
Jordan's state news agency said the evacuees will remain in the country for approximately three months and then will be resettled to Canada, Britain and Germany.
The White Helmets rescue group operates in opposition held areas of Syria and acts like an informal emergency services in areas devastated by war. The group mainly consisting of Syrian volunteers has become synonymous with Bashar Al-Assad’s war on his own people as these eight years of shown the white helmets rescuing thousands of Syrians trapped in conflict-areas.
Raed Saleh, the head of the Syrian Civil Defense, as the White Helmets are formally called, confirmed the evacuations took place but would not elaborate on the numbers of people who got out.
The fate of the White Helmet volunteers was discussed at the recently concluded NATO summit as Bashar Al-Assad’s forces have gained ground across the country in rebel-held territory. Assad’s forces backed by Russia consider the White Helmets a ‘terrorist’ organisation and have alleged the volunteer force of aiding rebel fighters. During the ongoing offensive launched by Syrian government forces, the White Helmets had become trapped in the Quneitra province.
"The White Helmets have saved over 115,000 lives during the Syrian conflict, at great risk to their own," Jeremy Hunt, the British foreign secretary, and Penny Mordaunt, the U.K.'s international development secretary said in a joint statement. "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. We therefore took steps with the aim of affording that protection to as many of the volunteers and their families as possible."
After this evacuation, there remain more than 3000 members of the White Helmets in Syria and their fate is undecided.