Syrian army retakes territories near Golan Heights


The Associated Press first reported on Friday that US officials were finalizing plans to evacuate several hundred Syrian civil defence workers and their families from southwest Syria as Russian-backed government forces closed in on the Quneitra province, along the Golan Heights frontier.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has pledged to support the humanitarian workers and first-responders, and Canada is one of three countries that have reportedly agreed to take in some of the White Helmets and their families.

The officials said the White Helmets, who have enjoyed backing from the United States and other Western nations for years, were likely to be targeted by Syrian forces as they retook control of the southwest.

The statement said that the Syrian civilians were evacuated from the war zone in southern Syria "due to an immediate threat to their lives".

Under a deal negotiated between Russian Federation with opposition groups, more convoys are expected to follow from the southwestern province, which is located adjacent to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights region.

The evacuees were driven to the border with the Golan Heights and taken on from there by Israeli troops to Jordan.

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"The Jordanian government said it had authorised the United Nations to organise the passage of 800 Syrian citizens through Jordan to be resettled in western countries", the kingdom said.

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.

Israel ferried 800 members and relatives of the White Helmets who were threatened by the advance of government forces in the provinces of Deraa and Quneitra.

VideoIncredibly, this young girl was pulled alive from rubble in the Syrian city of Douma, after intense aerial bombardments. "We judged that, in these particular circumstances, the volunteers required immediate protection".

Both Syria and Russian Federation consider the White Helmets a terrorist organization, a designation that the global community has rejected.

"Several days ago, U.S. President Trump contacted me, as did Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau and others, and requested that we assist in evacuating hundreds of White Helmets from Syria", Netanyahu said in Hebrew during an online address.

Dozens of Syrians approach Israeli frontier as Assad assault closes in
They usually follow ferocious military campaigns and sometimes stifling sieges that effectively force rebels to surrender. Representatives of the rebels in Quneitra deny that the Syrian army took the village, saying that the fighting continued.

The White Helmets describe themselves as a volunteer workforce that acts to save people in Syria's war zones.

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

Both Moscow and Damascus have accused the White Helmets of staging rescue missions and chemical attacks to blame on the government.

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

But, that's resulted in them being identified with opposition forces, and therefore a target for the Syrian army. Evacuation plans were accelerated after last week's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Brussels.

More than 2,500 people, among them fighters from Islamist groups who have rejected the deal, left on Friday headed to opposition areas in northern Syria.

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It was unclear how many White Helmet volunteers remained in both the Daraa and Quneitra provinces after the evacuations.