Thu | Dec 13, 2018

Syrian White Helmets evacuated to Jordan through Israel

Published:Sunday | July 22, 2018 | 11:20 PM
FILE - This Wednesday, June 14, 2017, file photo, provided by the Syrian Civil Defense group known as the White Helmets, shows a civil defense worker carrying a child after airstrikes hit a school housing a number of displaced people in the western part of the southern Daraa province of Syria.

BEIRUT (AP):

The Israeli military in coordination with its U.S. and European allies evacuated hundreds of Syrian rescue workers known as the White Helmets from near its volatile frontier with Syria, in a complex and first-of-a-kind operation.

The evacuees, who were hemmed in from one side by advancing hostile Syrian troops and from another by militants affiliated with the Islamic State group, were transported to Jordan, from where they are expected to be resettled in Europe and Canada in the coming weeks.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said yesterday that 422 White Helmets volunteers were evacuated, instead of the initial 800 cleared for the operation.

Israel's military said the overnight operation was "an exceptional humanitarian gesture" at the request of the United States and European allies due to an "immediate threat to the (Syrians) lives".

It posted a video online showing its soldiers handing out water bottles to the evacuees.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a separate video statement, said U.S. President Donald Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and others had asked him to help evacuate the group's members.

"These are people who saved lives and whose lives are now in danger. I authorised bringing them through Israel to other countries as an important humanitarian gesture," Netanyahu said.

The U.S. State Department welcomed the rescue of "these brave volunteers" and cited the United Nations, Israel and Jordan for helping with the operation.