Israel evacuates 800 White Helmets to Jordan in face of Syria advance

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The kingdom agreed to a request by Britain, Germany and Canada to give the White Helmet workers temporary asylum before settlement in the West on humanitarian grounds, spokesperson Mohammad al Kayed said.

The reports say they were transferred to Jordan and would travel on from there to Britain, Germany and Canada.

I have, in the past, spoken to Syrian officials who claimed the White Helmets had links to MI6, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Gulf States - they were, it was claimed, a conduit for weapons and "terrorist" resistance against President Assad.

The civilians were evacuated from the war zone in Southern Syria due to an immediate threat to their lives.

The capture of a string of villages, announced by the army on Saturday, comes as evacuation of rebels and their families resumed for the second day from villages along the Golan frontier towards rebel-controlled northern Syria.

Jordan's Foreign Ministry stated in a press release that Amman allowed the United Nations to arrange passage for the Syrian refugees through its territory, ahead of their resettlement in Western countries.

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.

Raed Saleh, head of the Syrian Civil Defence as the White Helmets are also known, said a number of volunteers and their families were evacuated from a unsafe, besieged area and had reached Jordan.

More than 20,000 civilians have fled bombardment on the IS-held corner on the border with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan in the past 24 hours, fleeing into regime-held areas, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

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Last week the Syrian regime reached a deal through which the rebel groups in the area, defeated and encircled, could surrender.

The IDF says it was an "exceptional humanitarian gesture".

"A group of core countries have committed to resettle a number of White Helmets".

The group, known famously as the White Helmets, is a network of first responders which rescue wounded in the aftermath of air strikes, shelling or explosions in rebel-areas.

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.

A spokeswoman for the German interior ministry said Berlin would take in eight White Helmets plus their families.

Some 422 volunteers and family members were taken to Jordan via the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights overnight.

He described the White Helmets, who have been accused of cooperating with terrorists and faking chemical attacks as "people who saved lives".

Despite global pleas, Israel has consistently pushed back against worldwide pressure to take in refugees, even as neighboring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have altogether accepted millions of Syrian civilians.