Syria to exploit Israel’s role in ‘White Helmets’ rescue to vilify those who remain

The Assad regime will use Israel’s key role in the rescue of over 400 “White Helmet” civil aids and their families as proof that the entire group is an enemy of Syria. 

By: World Israel News and AP

White Helmets fear that the Assad regime will exploit Israel’s involvement in their rescue as proof that they are “terrorists” and “enemies of the state.”

A number of White Helmets, a group of civil defense activists who provide humanitarian aid to Syrians suffering from the civil war, declined to be saved by a coalition of Western nations and Jordan out of fear that Israel’s involvement in the operation would be used against them.

A source also said that the White Helmets feared they had no guarantees where they would end up.

However, the leadership of the White Helmets was unanimous in accepting the rescue offer, despite the likelihood the government would point to the Israel route in propaganda against them.

“The political ramification had to be secondary to saving what is to be saved,” the source said.

Evacuating them through Jordan quickly became impossible as government forces advanced, seizing a vital border crossing from the rebels and then deploying along the border.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he agreed to let them cross through Israel, after an appeal from US President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

There was an unexpected twist: Advances by an affiliate of the Islamic State group. As rebel forces retreated and surrendered in many villages between Daraa and Quneitra provinces, it was the IS affiliate — not government forces— that moved in.

A total of 421 people massed at two collection points where they were to make their crossing to safety.

By the time they crossed, they were 422. One woman went into labor, requiring an emergency C-section. Her son, Nairouz, came into the world in an open field under the darkness of night just short of the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

It was just one moment of drama in a complicated international rescue operation to remove the Syrian volunteer rescuers – who work in opposition areas through their country’s bitter enemy, Israel  – by bus to a temporary haven in Jordan.