Germany to take in 8 Syrian 'White Helmets,' families

The evacuated White Helmets are now expected to be resettled in a number of Western countries, namely Canada, Germany, France and some others. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also described the White Helmets as "a branch of al-Qaeda and al-Nusra" militant groups and a "PR stunt" by the United States, the UK and France.

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

Former MI5 officer James Le Mesurier, who is considered to have founded the group in Turkey in 2013, said on Sunday that 422 people were rescued, which included 98 White Helmets.

Assad's forces recently overwhelmed rebel areas bordering Jordan and Golan Heights, Syrian territory occupied by Israel. They are credited for saving thousands of lives.

Britain's Foreign Office said it had helped facilitate the overnight evacuations.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a joint statement with the International Development Secretary that the "brave and selfless" volunteers required "immediate protection".

The German government said in a statement Sunday that preparations are underway to bring the volunteers and an unspecified number of family members to Germany.

The move was "an expression of my stance of ensuring humanity and order in migration policy", he said.

The military operation saw the Israeli military slip hundreds of people from Syria to Jordan, though the exact numbers were still being determined; Jordanian officials initially said that 800 Syrians were rescued, though that number was later revised down to around 425.

The White Helmets are western-funded and gained worldwide acclaim in 2016 when a United Kingdom documentary on the group won an Oscar. "Canada is resettling up to 50 members and their families, and is working with the global community to assess remaining needs", said Canada's foreign affairs spokeswoman Elizabeth Reid.

Hunt described the White Helmets as "the bravest of the courageous", adding that "in a desperate situation this is at least one ray of hope".

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But a volunteer in Daraa city, who asked to remain anonymous, said he had chose to stay despite being given the choice to leave. It added that they were evacuated because of "a risk to their lives".

Regime forces backed by Russian Federation have continued their campaign in Daraa, aiming to retake areas still controlled by Islamic State group jihadists, which are not party to the Russia-backed withdrawal deals.

It was the first such intervention the country has had in Syria's civil war, now in its eighth year.

Since its formation, when Syria's conflict was nearing its third year, more than 250 of its volunteers have been killed.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's administration regards the White Helmets as agents of Western powers.

Some members have received training overseas, including in Turkey, returning to instruct colleagues on search-and-rescue techniques.

Syrian forces launched their southern offensive on June 19, targeting the province of Daraa on the border with Jordan, before turning their attention to neighboring Quneitra.

Regime forces have since regained control of most of these two provinces through a combination of deadly bombardment and Moscow-brokered surrender deals.

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, also praised the evacuation and said her country had provided funding to the volunteer group.

"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.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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