Israel Helps Rescue Humanitarian Workers From Syria

Civil Defence volunteers also known as the White Helmets have been evacuated to Jordan

"The request was approved based on pure humanitarian reasons", he added.

Syria's state-run news agency SANA reported on Sunday that Israel "smuggled" the White Helmets to Jordan, saying the volunteer group had links to terrorist groups including the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.

Members of the Civil Defence, also known as the "White Helmets", are seen inspecting the damage at a Roman ruin site in Daraa, Syria December 23, 2017.

The Syrian government managed to get full control over a strategic territory at the border with Jordan following the operation.

Hundreds of rescue volunteers from the Syrian Civil Defence were evacuated to Jordan by Israel at the request of the United States and European powers.

The IDF called the transfer of hundreds of Syrians out of the war-torn country via Israeli territory "an exceptional humanitarian gesture" and stressed that "Israel continues to maintain a non-intervention policy regarding the Syrian conflict and continues to hold the Syrian regime accountable for all activities in Syrian territory".

It said that "Britain, Germany and Canada made a legally binding undertaking to resettle them within a specified period of time due to "a risk to their lives".

They were encircled in the provinces of Deraa and Quneitra, he said, including a number trapped between the border with the Golan Heights and advancing Russia-backed regime troops, he told AFP.

The United Nations helped with the evacuation through the Golan Heights.

The Syrian government is unlikely to fire there or carry out airstrikes for fear of an Israeli response.

Members of the White Helmets are seen inspecting the damage at a Roman ruin site in Daraa Syria
Image Members of the White Helmets inspect the damage at a Roman ruin site in Daraa Syria

A former resident in touch with relatives said thousands of civilians whose villages have been bombed have fled to the safety of areas either held by the army or rebels.

The White Helmets typically have operated in opposition-held areas across Syria, places where government services are nearly non-existent, voluntarily risking their lives to save hundreds of civilian lives during relentless government airstrikes and bombardments.

However, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies - including Russian Federation - have said they see the White Helmets as proxies of Islamist-led insurgents and Western-sponsored propaganda tools.

The announcement marked the first such Israeli intervention in Syria's civil war, now in its eight year.

Since the offensive began, Jordan said it will not open its borders to the newly displaced Syrians.

More than 650,000 Syrian refugees are registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Jordan but the kingdom says it hosts 1.3 million Syrian refugees.

"More than half of the evacuees are women and children", said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

Some Syrians have opted to be evacuated to northern Idlib province, where the opposition still holds territory.

Panicked passengers, fearing for their lives, posted pictures of the militia surrounding their buses on social media. In the past two years, the Israeli military says it has delivered more than 1,500 tons of food, 250 tons of clothing and almost a million litres of fuel.

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