Syrian 'White Helmets' flee to Jordan

Posted July 26, 2018

Ghunaimat also said Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, on Sunday discussed "preliminary ideas" about the possible return of Syrian refugees to their homeland, but that "we can not talk about return while the crisis in Syria is not yet over".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed Sunday that Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump were among those who asked Israel to rescue the White Helmets in recent days, after leaders first talked about helping the White Helmets during the recent North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Brussels.

"We pay tribute to the courageous and selfless work that White Helmets volunteers have done to save Syrians on all sides of the conflict".

"The White Helmets" organization was founded in Turkey in 2013 by former British MI5 officer James Le Mesurier.

It said they were transferred to a neighboring country, which it did not identify.

White Helmets head Raed Saleh said the evacuees had arrived in Jordan after being "surrounded in a unsafe region". "The fact that some White Helmets members left and some stayed hurt us more than it helped us", he tells AFP.

"It was the only alternative for our trapped volunteers who would otherwise have faced detention or death at the hands of the Syrian regime and its ally Russian Federation", it said.

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

Later on Monday, Israel rebuffed a new Russian offer to keep Iranian forces in Syria away from the Golan Heights ceasefire line, an Israeli official said, complicating Moscow's bid to stabilise the country as the civil war there wanes.

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Jordan said 800 people including members of Syria's controversial "White Helmets" opposition group had been evacuated Sunday from southwest Syria where the country's army is advancing against anti-government forces, with Israeli officials saying they facilitated the mission. "The situation is getting worse by the minute, especially after the batch of White Helmets who have managed to leave yesterday morning, the regime is looking for us".

Piazza said Putin has made Syria the showpiece of its resurrection as a global superpower - and a player in the Middle East.

The evacuees were driven to the border with the Golan Heights and taken on from there by Israeli troops to Jordan.

"They are now being assisted by the UNHCR in Jordan pending worldwide resettlement".

Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Mohammad al-Kayed told Petra that while Jordan already hosts 1.3 million Syrian refugees, it "won't hesitate to perform its humanitarian duty despite the great burdens placed on the Kingdom". Some 300,000 have been displaced by the fighting, with only a few thousands opting for evacuation to Idlib, which is expected to be the target of the next government offensive.

"It seems like simple moral math to me that when the uprising fails, they should try to get their guys out alive, with their families", he told AP in an email.

"All sides benefit from giving the losing team a safe exit", he said.

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

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