White Helmets flee to Jordan

A member of the White Helmets emergency rescue group was wounded in fighting near Damascus in January

Damascus's ally Russian Federation has accused the group of staging chemical weapons attacks on civilians and blaming them on the government, a charge that has never been proven.

Hundreds were evacuated from the southwest of the war-torn country as part of what Israel described as a "humanitarian effort".

"These are people who saved lives and whose lives are now in danger".

Israel rescued some 800 members of a Syrian humanitarian organization and their families from southern Syria.

What have Israel and Jordan said?

White Helmets boss Raed Saleh said the evacuees had been encircled in the provinces of Daraa and Quneitra.

'The WH are the bravest of the fearless and in a desperate situation this is at least one ray of hope'.

With the regime now reaching the end of its offensive to retake areas of southern Syria, there was an "immediate threat". The military said that did not mean Israel's policy of non-intervention in the conflict had changed.

The United States has been funding the White Helmets since 2013, providing more than $33 mln to them.

It has long accused Tel Aviv of tending to injured Syrian militants, distributing "humanitarian aid" to militant-controlled areas and repeatedly attacking Syria's government troops over alleged Iranian military buildup.

They offered services where state institutions and services are non-existent.

The group has often posted dramatic videos of its rescue missions and disturbing footage of the aftermath of alleged chemical weapons attacks.

However, Jordan's government confirmed it had "authorised the United Nations to organise the passage of 800 Syrian citizens through Jordan to be resettled in Western countries".

Over the weekend, a convoy of buses carrying the White Helmets streamed into northern Israel under cover of darkness.

German weekly magazine Bild, which broke news of the evacuation and published footage of buses used to transport the Syrians across Golan, said 50 of them would be granted asylum by Berlin. Syrian state TV al-Ikhbariya called the evacuation a "scandal".

Since the offensive began, Jordan said it will not open its borders to the newly displaced Syrians.

Some rebels say Russian Federation, which led the military campaign and negotiated most of the surrender deals and committed military police to oversee its implementation, has been trying to push back the army and its Iranian-backed militias from committing excesses in former rebel-held towns.

The rescue marked the first time in the eight-year war that Israel has allowed Syrians to flee through its territory.

The White Helmets work exclusively in rebel-held areas and receive donations from several Western governments, including Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States.

The rockets fell inside Syrian territory and were part of internal fighting, a military statement said.

Its members, known for their white helmets, say they are neutral.

Hundreds of White Helmets volunteers have been rescued from Syria in a British-brokered moonlight evacuation through Israel and Jordan. Evacuation plans were accelerated after last week's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Brussels.

The evacuees are being assisted by the U.N. Refugee agency in Jordan pending global resettlement.

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