Syria condemns Israeli evacuation of White Helmets as 'criminal operation'

Syria condemns Israeli evacuation of White Helmets as 'criminal operation'

Syria condemns Israeli evacuation of White Helmets as 'criminal operation'

Israel assisted with the evacuation Sunday of hundreds of the rescue workers and their family members, but the remaining group couldn't make it to the evacuation point due to heavy fighting between ISIS and the Syrian regime, the White Helmets volunteers told CNN.That fighting has intensified in recent days as Syria tries to eradicate the last remaining ISIS pockets in the southern part of the country.

Assad's forces recently overwhelmed rebel areas bordering Jordan and Golan Heights, Syrian territory occupied by Israel.

President Assad said it used "humanitarian masks and umbrellas just to implement a certain agenda".

The Syrian government has accused the White Helmets, also known as Syria Civil Defence, of being a Western-sponsored terrorist organisation.

Who are the White Helmets?

A second, non-Jordanian source familiar with the agreement said the original plan had been to evacuate 800 people, but only 422 made it out as operations were hampered by government checkpoints and the expansion of IS in the area.

In a statement Monday, a foreign ministry official called the evacuation a "smuggling operation" that also reveals Israel's involvement in the Syrian war despite its claims to the contrary.

"It is pretty clear that Assad is winning the Syrian civil war - decisively", said James Piazza, a Penn State professor and Middle East expert.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told Bild newspaper that Germany would take in eight White Helmets members and their families. Dozens have been killed in the line of duty, including seven that were gunned down at the group's office in the Idlib province in 2017.

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Israel has been on high alert since June 19, when Syrian government forces launched a Russia-backed offensive to retake Quneitra and Daraa and provinces, adjacent respectively to the Israeli-held section of the Golan and to Jordan.

"These Syrian citizens who were working in the civil defense, had fled the areas controlled by the Syrian opposition after the Syrian army's attack in those areas", Petra reported.

In the southwestern campaign, however, the White Helmets said the deals agreed "did not include any guarantees of safe passage for displaced humanitarian workers to other areas of Syria", making the global evacuation necessary.

Exactly when the White Helmets will arrive is unclear; the rescued Syrians are expected to remain in a United Nations refugee camp for at least three months to allow for processing.

Foreign ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Kayed said Britain, Germany and Canada had initially agreed to accept around 827 rescuers and their relatives, but eventually settled on a figure of 422.

Israel had previously turned down a proposal by Russian Federation, the big-power backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, that Iranian forces be kept 80 km from the frontier, according to Israeli officials. "Prime Minister Trudeau and Prime Minister Netanyahu reinforced the benefits of the close cooperation between Canada and Israel".

Israel had previously rejected a Russian proposal that Iranian forces be kept 80km from the frontier, according to Israeli officials.

Netanyahu met Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and armed forces chief General Valery Gerasimov later in the day.

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