Israel evacuates hundreds of Syria's White Helmets to Jordan

Netanyahu also revealed on Sunday that Trudeau was one of the world leaders who personally asked for Israel to evacuate roughly 800 of the White Helmets over fears they would be targeted by regime forces.

Syrian state television said on Sunday that an Israeli air strike hit a military post in the city of Misyaf in Syria's Hama province, causing material damage.

The Israeli military said that overnight it had completed "a humanitarian effort to rescue members of a Syrian civil organization and their families.due to an immediate threat to their lives".

On Saturday, Canada said it was working with the United Kingdom and Germany to "ensure the safety of the White Helmets and their families".

Israel agreed to evacuate the White Helmets "given the evident fact that Assad's rule is again taking hold in all of Syria", Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said in a radio interview.

The White Helmets, a group of some 3,000 volunteers sponsored by other humanitarian groups in the United States and Canada, provides search and rescue services in response to bombing and evacuations of civilians from danger areas, and also provide food, psychological support and other assistance.

The Syrian regime launched a large offensive in June that has retaken the rebel-held areas in Dara'a and Quneitra bordering Jordan and the Golan.

The White Helmets had become trapped in an area of south-western Syria near the border with the Golan Heights after an offensive by the Syrian military.

Israel has been sending medical aid to civilians who have fled fighting in the Syrian-controlled part of the Golan Heights.

Israel evacuates hundreds of Syria's White Helmets to Jordan
Israel evacuates hundreds of Syria's White Helmets to Jordan

On Saturday afternoon, state news agency SANA said preparations were underway to ferry a second wave of people from Quneitra to the north of Syria.

Jordan said it would transfer the Syrians to Britain, Canada and Germany.

"We are in a bus with around sixty people young men and families and about to leave and become uprooted from our homes", said Maher Ali, 38, an activist who decided with his family to leave than risk retribution for his long record of peaceful opposition to President Bashar al Assad's authoritarian rule.

It was the first such intervention the country has had in Syria's civil war, now in its eighth year.

Canada will take in up to 50 White Helmets volunteers and their families, totalling up to 250 people, the country's public broadcaster CBC said citing senior officials.

Al Jazeera's Stefanie Dekker, reporting from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, described the operation as "a massive multinational and global effort, with the United Nations involved to get this under way".

Israeli fighter jets attacked parts of western Syria yesterday on a military site in the Masyaf countryside.

As Damascus and its allies pursue victory, there appears little chance of the kind of negotiated peace Assad's adversaries say is needed to stabilize the country and encourage millions of refugees to return.

Israel had previously rejected a Russian proposal that Iranian forces be kept 80km from the frontier, according to Israeli officials.

  • Jon Douglas