Thursday, August 16, 2018 | ePaper

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

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A member of the White Helmets carries a wounded girl amid the rubble following reported government airstrike on the rebel-held town of Douma.

AFP, Amman :
Israel has evacuated 800 White Helmets rescuers and their family members threatened by advancing Syrian regime forces to Jordan for resettlement in Britain, Canada and Germany, Amman said Sunday.
Founded in 2013, the Syria Civil Defence, or White Helmets, is a network of first responders which rescues wounded in the aftermath of air strikes, shelling or explosions in rebel-held territory.
Jordan "authorised the United Nations to organise the passage of 800 Syrian citizens through Jordan to be resettled in western countries," the kingdom said.
"The government gave the permission after 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'."
An Israeli government source confirmed Israel's military had rescued 800 people who were taken to Jordan.
"Upon request of the US, Canada and European states Israel has completed a humanitarian effort to rescue members of a Syrian civil organisation ('White Helmets') and families," Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon tweeted.
White Helmets head Raed Saleh said the evacuees had arrived in Jordan after being "surrounded in a dangerous region".
They were encircled in the provinces of Daraa and Quneitra, he said, including a number trapped between the border with the Golan Heights and advancing Russia-backed regime troops, he told AFP.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said she "called for global leadership to support and help these heroes" during a meeting of foreign ministers at the NATO leaders' summit in Brussels a week ago.
The White Helmets have rescued thousands of civilians trapped under the rubble or caught up in fighting in battered opposition-held zones along various fronts of Syria's seven-year conflict.
Since its formation, when Syria's conflict was nearing its third year, more than 200 of its volunteers have died and another 500 have been wounded.
The group's motto-"To save one life is to save all of humanity"-is drawn from a verse in the Koran, although the White Helmets insist they treat all victims, regardless of religion.
Some members have received training abroad, including in Turkey, returning to instruct colleagues on search-and-rescue techniques.
The group receives funding from a number of governments, including Britain, Germany and the United States, but also solicits individual donations to purchase equipment such as its signature hard hats.
Last year, a Netflix production called "The White Helmets" won an Academy Award for best short documentary.
A second film on the group, named "Last Men in Aleppo," was nominated for an Oscar in 2018.

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