Moonlight rescue of Syria's White Helmets offers 'ray of hope'


The army's initial investigation had yet to determine what happened to the second interceptor, if it intercepted one of the Syrian missiles, if it landed in Syria or if it successfully self-destructed over Syria.

The Syrian civil war has raged since 2011, leaving 350,000 people dead and millions more displaced. Israeli forces crossed into Syria to carry out the rescue.

Seven years into the war, Assad has taken back the country's center and is reasserting his control of its largest population centers.

Around 50 buses transporting fighters and their families reached the Morek transit route in the north of Hama province, which links regime and rebel-held territories, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.

"The White Helmets" organization was founded in Turkey in 2013 by former British MI5 officer James Le Mesurier.

"We renew our call on the [Syria] regime and Russian Federation to abide by their commitments, end the violence, and protect all Syrian civilians, including humanitarians such as the White Helmets, in areas formerly part of the southwest de-escalation zone and throughout Syria", it added. They also saved countless lives during Syrian poison gas attacks.

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Last year, a Netflix production called The White Helmets won an Academy Award for the best short documentary. The Syrian government considers the group a "terrorist" organization because it works in areas controlled by its opponents, where state institutions and services are non-existent.

"We pay tribute to the fearless and selfless work that White Helmet volunteers have done to save Syrians on all sides of the conflict".

The White Helmets typically have operated in opposition-held areas across Syria, places where government services are nearly non-existent, voluntarily risking their lives to save hundreds of civilian lives during relentless government airstrikes and bombardments.

How did this rescue mission go?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a separate video statement, said U.S. President Donald Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and others had asked him to help evacuate the group's members.

The countries involved in the rescue had determined that the White Helmets were facing an imminent threat.

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More than 400 White Helmets volunteers, US -backed rescue workers aiding refugees and victims of Syria's civil war, and their families were removed from the one of the last anti-government strongholds in Syria. The 422 people included women and children.

On Sunday, a Jordanian foreign ministry spokesperson said the kingdom had allowed the United Nations to arrange the entry and passage of 800 Syrian civil defence workers and their families.

"A group of core countries have committed to resettle a number of White Helmets".

Jordan will only be a temporary stopping place for those rescued.

The US, UK, Germany and Canada had all been aiding the White Helmets logistically in recent months.

Up to 300 White Helmets are still trapped.

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