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Israel confirms evacuation of White Helmets members from Syria at United States request

Israel confirms evacuation of White Helmets members from Syria at United States request

It was Israel's first published operational use of the mid-range missiles, which are jointly manufactured by USA firm Raytheon Co.

Israeli forces carried out the rescue on Saturday night following a request from the "US, Canada, and European Union countries". Their volunteers have gone into war-stricken areas, searching for survivors, winning them support from many countries, including the United States.

What have Israel and Jordan said?

The White Helmet volunteers and their families will be held in a "restricted area" of Jordan and assessed by the United Nations, pending resettlement.

Western powers had become concerned in recent weeks that the volunteers' lives were at risk as Russian-backed Syrian forces tightened their grip on one of the last rebel-held areas in southern Syria.

The official said the rockets were likely aimed at Syrian rebels fighting the government and they eventually landed just one kilometer from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

In a statement on Monday the group said during the southwest campaign four of its volunteers were killed and dozens injured, four White Helmet centres were hit and rescue vehicles were destroyed by Syrian government bombardment.

CNN reported earlier citing diplomatic sources that Washington and its allies had been discussing the possibility of evacuating White Helmets members from Syria.

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The latest deal for Quneitra was reached on Thursday.

The statement, however, did not mention the group by name at the time, but German tabloid Bild said some 800 members of the "White Helmets" were expected to be brought to Jordan through Israel to be reportedly resettled later in the UK, Canada, and Germany. The ministry's spokesman Mohammed al-Kayed said the Syrians would remain in Jordan for three months.

Critics of the move have raised doubts around the White Helmets' legitimacy as a human rights organisation, accusing them of containing within their ranks jihadists who are now set to be welcomed to Britain. "They acted exclusively on territories under the control of Islamic radicals, staged blatant falsifications, which were used then as a pretext to raise accusations against the Syrian authorities", the ministry stated. Maas noted that the group has saved more than 100,000 lives since the start of the Syrian conflict.

Numbering about 3,000 volunteers, they also carry out essential fix works.

Russian military police have also entered rebel-held towns as part of guarantees given by the Russians that the army and its allied militias do not take revenge against civilians and former fighters, rebel officials said.

The White Helmets have gained worldwide praise, were nominated for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize and were the subject of a Netflix documentary and BBC Panorama programme.

Admitting to the operation later on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that the operation was an "important humanitarian step", adding that he ordered it after requests from US President Donald Trump and Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau.

The group has been financed by public donations, as well as funding from foreign governments.

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