Syria slams ‘criminal’ evacuation of White Helmets by Israel

Civil Defence rescue children after what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al Assad in al Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo Syria Jun 2 2014. Reuters

Hundreds of them were stuck in a pocket of southern Syria, fearing advancing Syrian government forces.

Israeli forces carried out the rescue on Saturday night following a request from the "US, Canada, and European Union countries".

The ministry's spokesman Mohammed al-Kayed said the Syrians would remain in Jordan for three months.

Officially known as the Syria Civil Defense, the White Helmets, so called for their signature hard hats, have been lauded in the West for their work digging people out of the rubble after government airstrikes.

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

"Israel continues to maintain a non-intervention policy regarding the Syrian conflict and continues to hold the Syrian regime accountable for all activities in Syrian territory".

"The White Helmets" organization was founded in Turkey in 2013 by former British MI5 officer James Le Mesurier.

The group says it has saved over 114,000 lives and has lost the lives of 204 White Helmet volunteers since its founding in 2014.

Some 422 volunteers and family members were taken to Jordan via the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights overnight.

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A commander in the regional alliance that backs Assad said the army's victory in southwestern Syria forced Israel to accept the Syrian army's return to the old 1974 armistice lines.

The U.S., along with the United Kingdom and other European nations, reportedly asked the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) to help "White Helmet" volunteers escape to Jordan through the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, which is located by Israel's border with Syria.

A former resident in touch with relatives said thousands of civilians had fled bombed villages to areas held by the army or the rebels.

The group have been taken to Jordan where they have been given temporary asylum.

The Syrian government, and Russian Federation, have called the White Helmets "terrorists", accused them of being "agents" for foreign powers, and of cooperating with radical insurgent groups.

The London-based Syrian watchdog organization Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed the Russian air force carried out between 120 and130 airstrikes against the Islamic State affiliate which refused to be part of a new surrender agreement between the Assad regime and other Islamist rebel groups on the Golan Heights.

The White Helmet members and their families will be held in a "restricted area" of Jordan.

Refugees, meanwhile, who've been trapped by the fighting have set up camps near the Israeli-controlled Golan.

Separately Sunday, al-Ikhbariya TV quoted a military official as saying that a military post in the town of Masyaf in Hama province was hit by an Israeli airstrike.

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