Syria blasts evacuation of White Helmets as ’criminal’

Geneva Stokes
July 23, 2018

The evacuees were driven to the border with the Golan Heights and taken on from there by Israeli troops to Jordan.

The Israeli military said its actions did not reflect a change to Israel's non-intervention policy in Syria's war, where all the warring parties are considered hostile. "We judged that, in these particular circumstances, the volunteers required immediate protection".

His supporters, and his Russian allies, say the volunteers support the rebels and also have links to jihadist groups.

The Syrian army wants full control over Quneitra province, where Israel has deep concerns over the presence of Iranian-backed militias in the so-called Triangle of Death area.

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 Syrian Foreign Ministry, citing an unnamed official at the ministry, said on Monday that Damascus had previously warned about the risky role the White Helmets were playing in undermining the security and stability in the Arab country and in the region due to their "terrorist nature".

"Now that it appears that the Assad regime is going to regain its hold over all of Syria, the global community wanted to extricate them so that they wouldn't have to pay the price of the enormous hatred that the Syrian regime has for them", he said.

Planning for the evacuation had been taking place for some time but speeded up following a recent North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Brussels.

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.

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Three minutes later, sirens were heard in communities on the Golan Heights region, located near the Lebanese and Syrian borders.

The Syrian government managed to get full control over a strategic territory at the border with Jordan following the operation.

Reuters quoted a Jordanian government source as saying that 422 people had been brought from Syria over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and into Jordan. 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.

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.

The operation, the first of its kind, was carried out at the request of the United States and several European countries, all of which provide funding to the White Helmets rescue group. Thousands of armed men and their families were evacuated over the weekend.

The news about the Israeli involvement came amid Tel Aviv's ongoing provision of assistance to the militants fighting the Syrian government.

"The White Helmets have saved over 115,000 lives during the Syrian conflict, at great risk to their own".

Syrian state television said on Sunday an Israeli air strike had hit a military post in the city of Misyaf in Syria's Hama province but caused only material damage.

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