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Israel Rescues Syrian White Helmets


SYRIA -- Syrian rescuers, known as White Helmets, recover bodies in Zardana, in the mostly rebel-held northern Syrian Idlib province, following air strikes in the area, June 7, 2018

The Israeli military says it “recently” rescued members of a Syrian volunteer civil organization – identified by media as the White Helmets-- and their families from the volatile border area on the Golan Heights and evacuated them to a neighboring country.

The announcement on July 22 marks the first such Israeli intervention in Syria's civil war.

"The civilians were evacuated from the war zone in southern Syria due to an immediate threat to their lives," the military said on its Twitter account, describing the move as "an exceptional humanitarian gesture".

The military said the move doesn't reflect a change to its non-intervention policy in Syria's war.

The evacuation came at the request of the United States and several European countries, the Israeli military said.

Israeli media reported that 800 people were evacuated to Jordan and would travel on from there to Britain, Germany and Canada.

The White Helmets have been working to rescue civilians in rebel-held areas since 2013.

They work exclusively in rebel-held areas and receive donations from several Western governments, including Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States.

President Bashar al-Assad's government and his ally Russia accuse them of being tools of their international donors.

They are known for their daring rescues, filmed and circulated on social media. They were nominated for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize.

Based on reporting by AFP, AP and Reuters

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