Israel Evacuates Over 400 Civilians And White Helmets From Syria

Israel Evacuates Over 400 Civilians And White Helmets From Syria

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

The Israeli military said the evacuation came at the request of the United States and a number of European countries. It was unclear what happened to the remainder.

Jordan's foreign ministry announced in a statement that the kingdom received 422 Syrian nationals for resettlement in Britain, Germany and Canada.

The Syrian government on Monday condemned a multilateral operation to evacuate hundreds of rescue workers from the war-torn country as a "criminal process" meant to de-stabilize Syria.

The first convoy of 55 buses, carrying some 2,800 people, arrived in northern Syria's opposition-held Idlib province on Saturday after rebels in Quneitra agreed to hand over medium to heavy weaponry and surrender the strategic area.

The Syrian army said its aerial strikes and shelling of militants in the Yarmouk Basin had killed "tens of terrorists" in a campaign whose goal it said was to crush militants.

Israeli forces crossed into Syria to carry out the rescue.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt confirmed the operation in a joint statement that praised the "brave and selfless work" of the group. They were then escorted by Israeli and United Nations forces to a border crossing into Jordan.

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The Syrian government on Monday condemned Israel's weekend evacuation of the White Helmets civil defense group from the war-torn country and into Jordan. He did not elaborate on the numbers of those evacuated.

The United States and other Western governments have funded their work, and a Netflix film, "The White Helmets", won an Academy Award previous year for best short documentary.

Israeli media identified the Syrians as belonging to the White Helmets organisation.

The BBC's Mark Lowen says the others have been hemmed in by the expansion of Islamic State group fighters into pockets of south-west Syria and, as this was a one-off operation, fears remain for the fate of those left behind. "The transfer of the displaced Syrians through Israel is an exceptional humanitarian gesture", the IDF said. Israel has occupied the Golan Heights since 1967. Thousands of civilians had taken shelter near the frontier to escape the government offensive.

Iran's growing role in the region is a major source of tensions as it funnels money into Hezbollah and the Syrian regime, both avowed enemies of the US-backed Israeli and Saudi governments. The Syrian rockets landed inside Syrian territory.

Israeli forces carried out the rescue on Saturday night following a request from the "US, Canada, and European Union countries". For the first time since the war began in 2011, government forces regained positions along the disengagement line following a cease-fire deal with Israel in 1974.

Close to one million Syrians are registered with the U.N.'s refugee agency in Lebanon.

The opposition said the Syrian army were expected to be deployed in areas abandoned by rebels once the evacuations are completed and heavy weapons given up by rebels. "The lives of these people, who have saved lives, were now in danger".

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