Global News

Syria blasts evacuation of White Helmets as 'criminal'

Syria blasts evacuation of White Helmets as 'criminal'

The Syrian Government has condemned the evacuation of hundreds of Syrian White Helmet rescue workers and their families with the help of Israeli soldiers, calling it a "criminal operation" undertaken by "Israel and its tools".

Syrian state television said Sunday an Israeli airstrike had hit a military post in the city of Masyaf in Syria's Hama province, but caused only material damage.

A spokesman for the Israel Defence Forces said the operation was an "exceptional humanitarian gesture".

Those successfully evacuated included about 100 White Helmets, with the rest family members.

"Several days ago, U.S. President Trump contacted me, as did Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau and others, and requested that we assist in evacuating hundreds of White Helmets from Syria", Netanyahu said in Hebrew during an online address.

The offensive has restored Syrian government control over a swathe of the southwest, strategic territory at the borders with Jordan and Israel.

The two leaders have held a number of discussions in recent months on the Syrian conflict and Iran's military presence there, which Israel opposes.

The Israeli military carried out the overnight rescue, reportedly bringing the first responders over the Golan Heights and into Jordan.

The evacuees will be kept in a "closed" location in Jordan and resettled in Britain, Germany and Canada within three months, the source added.

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

With its new advances, government forces are, for the first time since the civil war began in 2011, retaking this territory from the rebels and restoring their positions along the disengagement line in the Golan Heights.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement: "The White Helmets have saved over 115,000 lives during the Syrian conflict, at great risk to their own".

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

Those who reject the deal will be given safe passage out to the opposition-held province of Idlib in the northwest, according to terms that were also reported by a military news outlet run by Lebanon's Hezbollah group.

Previously, Israel would not allow the SAA to reach near the vicinity of their border, however the Israelis have a non-aggression agreement in place with Russian Federation to avoid any potential conflicts on the border.

Before the meeting, Netanyahu said he would tell the envoys that "Israel insists on the separation of forces agreement between us and Syria being honoured, as they were honoured for decades until the civil war in Syria broke out".

On Saturday, Russian air strikes killed six civilians in that IS-held pocket, the Observatory said.


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