The IDF saved more than 400 Syrian Civil Defense volunteers and their families from forces loyal to Russia and Syria.
By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
In a humanitarian gesture that earned international applause Sunday, Israel gave safe passage to over 400 members of the Syrian Civil Defense organization and their families Saturday night, making it possible for them to leave the area of fighting between the Syrian regime and rebels in the Syrian Golan Heights.
The group, known as the White Helmets, which has provided medical aid for years in rebel areas in Syria, “faced an immediate threat to their lives,” the IDF said.
According to an Army Radio report Monday, this is because of the role they played in revealing the Syrian regime’s alleged chemical gas attack on the rebel-held Syrian city of Douma on April 7, which reportedly killed dozens of people, including children.
Syria, which considers the White Helmets part of a terrorist organization, said at the time that the attack was faked and that no chemicals had been used. Russia defended its Middle Eastern ally from the charges as well.
The report added that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar Assad vetoed the possibility of the White Helmets staying in Syria after the Assad forces’ successful conquest of towns near the Israeli border in recent weeks.
Assad’s antipathy to the group extended to his refusal to allow the volunteer organization to enter Jordan directly via the border crossing under his forces control in the area, and this is where Jerusalem entered the picture, the report continued.
The US, Canada and EU countries asked Israel for help, noting the life-threatening situation facing the White Helmets.
Eyes filled with tears of happiness
Dozens of buses lined the road leading to the checkpoint at Quneitra as the IDF let in group after group of Syrian men, women and children in the hours-long operation.
“When they reached the border with Israel, their eyes were filled with tears of happiness, knowing that they got their lives back,” said Lt. Col. E., Commander of Operation Good Neighbor.
The IDF then accompanied the convoy to the Jordanian border, where the evacuees were accepted. They will soon continue on to the UK, Canada and Germany for final resettlement.
Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s Special Representative for International Negotiations, praised the IDF for the rescue operation Sunday night.
“Following a request from President Donald Trump and other allied leaders, last night Israel conducted a daring humanitarian rescue from Syria of hundreds of ‘White Helmets’ personnel and their families and transferred them safely to Jordan,” he tweeted.
German and British officials also thanked Israel and Jordan for acting so quickly.
Operation Good Neighbor is the IDF effort that has helped thousands of Syrians since June 2016 by supplying them with medical aid, food, fuel, baby food and other basic items. In the last few weeks, with Assad’s forces making a push to take over the rebel-held areas near the Israeli border, tens of thousands of tons of food, tents and other aid has passed through the border to help those fleeing the fighting.