Syria condemns Israeli evacuation of White Helmets as 'criminal operation'

Israel evacuates 800 Syrian 'White Helmets' to Jordan

Syria's Foreign Ministry has called the evacuation of members of the White Helmets to Jordan a "criminal process" that revealed the role of Israel, the United States and other western allies in propping up what the government considers a "terrorist group".

Israel rebuffed on Monday a new Russian offer to keep Iranian forces in Syria away from the Golan Heights ceasefire line, an Israeli official said, complicating Moscow's bid to stabilise the country amid a waning civil war.

White Helmets head Raed Saleh said the evacuated workers had arrived in Jordan after being "surrounded in a unsafe region".

USA officials say the United States is finalizing plans to evacuate several hundred Syrian civil defense workers and their families from southwest Syria as Russian-backed government forces close in on the area.

State Department on July 22 issued a statement saying it "welcomes the safe evacuation of more than 400 members of the Syrian Civil Defense" - also known as the White Helmets.

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.

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The offensive has restored Syrian government control over a swathe of the southwest, strategic territory at the borders with Jordan and Israel.

"It was the only alternative for our trapped volunteers who would otherwise have faced detention or death at the hands of the Syrian regime and its ally Russian Federation", the group said on Monday.

Members of the Syrian Civil Defence group, who say they are politically neutral, have been credited with saving thousands of lives, and were widely discussed as potential recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Those rescued will be kept in a "closed" location in Jordan before being resettled in Britain, Germany, and Canada within three months, the source told Reuters.

It marked the first such Israeli intervention in Syria's civil war, now in its eighth year.

"Syrian rockets were identified as having been launched as part of the internal fighting in Syria", an Israeli army statement said in English.

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The capture of a string of villages, announced by the army on Saturday, comes as evacuation of rebels and their families resumed for the second day from villages along the Golan frontier towards rebel-controlled northern Syria.

The group was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 for its humanitarian efforts.

Also Monday, Israel said it fired a pair of missiles to intercept two missiles fired from Syria in Israel's direction.

This has left civilians stranded between the Israeli-held Golan Heights and Jordan.

Previously, Israel would not allow the SAA to reach near the vicinity of their border, however the Israelis have a non-aggression agreement in place with Russian Federation to avoid any potential conflicts on the border.

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