Britain To Take In Some Of The 800 Evacuated Overnight From Syria

Zein Al RIFAI

Israel confirms it evacuated 800 White Helmet rescue workers from Syria

"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.

The Syrian army and its allies since June have been on an offensive in southern Syria, raising concerns Iranian backed-forces could take up positions in formerly rebel-held areas bordering the Golan Heights.

Israel confirmed the evacuation and said that the transfer was an "exceptional humanitarian gesture" done at the request of the "United States and additional European countries".

He told The National that the relocated people had been encircled in the provinces of Deraa and Quneitra, but did not elaborate on the exact numbers of those moved.

The group says it is politically neutral but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his backers have said they see the White Helmets as Western-sponsored propaganda tools and proxies of Islamist-led insurgents.

A number of those evacuated were from the White Helmets volunteer rescue group, known as the Syrian Civil Defense.

The plan had been to evacuate 800 White Helmets and their families, but only 422 made it.

Russian and Syrian jets stepped up their bombing of an Islamic State bastion along the Jordan-Israel border in southwestern Syria, as the militants pushed into areas abandoned by other rebel groups, diplomatic and opposition sources said.

Israel has been sending medical aid to civilians who have fled fighting in the Syrian-controlled part of the Golan Heights. They were then escorted by Israeli and United Nations forces to a border crossing into Jordan.

Israel confirms it evacuated 800 White Helmet rescue workers from Syria

The White Helmets, officially called the Syrian Civil Defence, operates a rescue service in rebel-held parts of Syria.

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

"The Israelis has been forced into submission. the file of the south has ended in favour of the Syrian army", the commander was quoted as saying by Reuters, adding that he expected Quneitra would be completely recaptured in the coming days.

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.

Around 50 buses transporting fighters and their families reached the Morek transit route in the north of Hama province, which links regime and rebel-held territories, an AFP correspondent at the scene said. Thousands of armed men and their families were evacuated over the weekend.

The rebel surrender negotiated by Russian Federation, a vital regime ally, also saw fighters hand over heavy and medium weapons and return government institutions to the area.

As such, they have been targeted by government forces. "There were lots of children", said one Israeli.

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