Hundreds of Syrian 'White Helmets' evacuated by Israel to Jordan

A member of the White Helmets emergency rescue group was wounded in fighting near Damascus in January

Over the weekend, 422 people, including volunteers known as "White Helmets" and their families, were rescued from Syria in a joint mission led by the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Israel, and Jordan.

The operation, in the early hours of yesterday, was the culmination of two weeks of frenzied negotiation and lobbying between the governments of the UK, Germany and Canada and the Jordanian and Israeli militaries.

From the 800, 378 remain stuck and it's unclear how many other White Helmet volunteers are also trying to get across.

The Israeli evacuation of more than 400 Syrian civil defense workers and their families in a bold nighttime raid brought praise from overseas, even as media reports attributed an airstrike on an Iranian missile factory in northwest Syria to Israel.

Israel signalled it would not impede the Syrian army presence in Quneitra as long as it steered away from the demilitarized zone, and said it will continue to escalate attacks along its frontier and elsewhere in Syria where it suspects Iranian-backed forces are stationed.

The White Helmets were taken across the border and then ferried on buses across the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and on into Jordan.

How was it carried out?

This has left civilians stranded between the Israeli-held Golan Heights and Jordan.

The White Helmets have saved civilians from collapsing buildings after air strikes and been credited with rescuing more than 60,000 people.

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A Canadian government source told AFP that a second group of White Helmets and their relatives were also supposed to be evacuated but "could not reach the border because of the situation on the ground".

This handout video grab released by the Israeli Army on July 22, 2017, shows an evacuation operation of Syrian White Helmet rescuers and their families through Israel, in an unknown location, en route to Jordan after facing the threat of advancing Syrian regime forces in certain regions. "Therefore I approved their passage through Israel to additional countries as an important humanitarian gesture".

The Syrian government accuses the group of cavorting with terrorists and of staging footage of their operations to garner sympathy and demonize the government.

The White Helmet members and their families will be held in a "restricted area" of Jordan.

Jordan has agreed to temporarily house the 422 evacuees, but its Foreign Ministry said Britain, Germany and Canada would resettle them.

The UK confirmed it would help with the resettlement, providing protection to "as numerous volunteers and their families as possible".

Despite their pledge to help victims on both sides, the Syrian and Russian governments consider the White Helmets to be a terrorist organization.

Russia's embassy in the Netherlands welcomed the White Helmets' departure.

Tens of thousands of people have been sheltering at the frontier since the Russian and Syrian aerial bombing campaign that the opposition called a scorched earth policy began a month ago.

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