Published: Tue, July 24, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

Israel evacuates Syrian White Helmets

Israel evacuates Syrian White Helmets

A defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the event with the media, said Israel had identified two surface-to-surface SS-21 rockets launched from Syria carrying a payload of hundreds of kilograms that they believed were headed for Israeli-controlled territory.

The evacuees will be kept in a "closed" location in Jordan and resettled in Britain, Germany and Canada within three months, the source added.

But a similar number remain trapped in southern Syria.

Piazza said there is no evidence to support Syrian claims that the White Helmets organization has aided armed combatants or are a conduit for Islamic extremists.

Israel has also said it would demand strict adherence to the 1974 disengagement deal with the Syrian army on the Golan, threatening a "harsh response" to any attempt by Syrian forces to deploy in that zone.

Syrian forces, backed by a Russian air campaign, have been pushing into the edges of Quneitra province following a relentless aerial bombardment campaign last month that routed rebels in adjoining Deraa province.

"Syrian regime checkpoints did not allow the majority of us to reach the evacuation point", Abu Mohmmad, a White Helmets volunteer, said.

"They set another meeting for today on the subject, but we found out a little while ago that the efforts failed. We therefore took steps with the aim of affording that protection to as numerous volunteers and their families as possible".

"Yesterday's evacuation through Israel only made things worse".

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"Over the years, this regime has been spoiled by the major powers and it is good to see that the USA is changing this unacceptable equation".

Israeli leaders anxious Assad may try to defy a 1974 demilitarisation deal on the Golan.

A Canadian foreign ministry statement on Saturday, quoted by the Jerusalem Post, said the White Helmets "have witnessed vicious atrocities committed by the Assad regime and its backers ..."

They have accused them of faking rescues and having links to rebel and jihadi groups.

The statement, however, did not mention the group by name at the time, but German tabloid Bild said some 800 members of the "White Helmets" were expected to be brought to Jordan through Israel to be reportedly resettled later in the UK, Canada, and Germany.

Supporters of President Bashar al-Assad, and his ally Russian Federation, say the White Helmets support the rebels and also have links to jihadist groups.

The White Helmets are western-funded and gained worldwide acclaim in 2016 when a United Kingdom documentary on the group won an Oscar. But Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his backers, including Russian Federation, have dismissed them as Western-sponsored propaganda tools and proxies of Islamist-led insurgents.

Members of the "White Helmets" civil defence group were among those removed from the country. "We expect this to be the government's final push to take back all of southern Syria", said Dekker.

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