Published: Wed, July 25, 2018
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

Russian-backed air strikes hit Islamic State in southern Syria

Russian-backed air strikes hit Islamic State in southern Syria

The United States and Russian Federation hailed the evacuation by the Israeli military of a Syrian volunteer civil organization from a volatile border area near the Golan Heights, although the two powers saw the operation in a sharply differing manner.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed plans to evacuate the White Helmets from Syria prior to a rescue mission carried out overnight by the Israeli military.

The Israel Defense Forces said it engaged in the "out of the ordinary" gesture due to the "immediate risk" to the lives of the civilians, as Russian-backed regime forces closed in on the area.

Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said 422 White Helmets volunteers were evacuated, instead of the initial 800 cleared for the operation.

Jordan's government confirmed it had "authorised the United Nations to organise the passage of 800 Syrian citizens through Jordan to be resettled in Western countries".

Over the weekend, 422 people, including volunteers known as "White Helmets" and their families, were rescued from Syria in a joint mission led by the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Israel, and Jordan.

The White Helmets is a network of first responders which rescues the wounded in the aftermath of air strikes, shelling, or explosions in rebel territory across Syria. It has long accused Tel Aviv of tending to injured Syrian militants, distributing "humanitarian aid" to militant-controlled areas and repeatedly attacking Syria's government troops over alleged Iranian military buildup. The military said that did not mean Israel's policy of non-intervention in the conflict had changed.

It was the first such intervention the country has had in Syria's civil war, now in its eighth year.

Before the meeting, Netanyahu said he would tell the envoys that "Israel insists on the separation of forces agreement between us and Syria being honoured, as they were honoured for decades until the civil war in Syria broke out".

"It was the only alternative for our trapped volunteers who would otherwise have faced detention or death at the hands of the Syrian regime and its ally Russian Federation", the group said on Monday.

Canada was named by CBS as a top possibility for a White Helmet "safe haven'".

Al Jazeera's Stefanie Dekker, reporting from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, described the operation as "a massive multinational and worldwide effort, with the United Nations involved to get this under way".

Ghunaimat also said Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, on Sunday discussed "preliminary ideas" about the possible return of Syrian refugees to their homeland, but that "we can not talk about return while the crisis in Syria is not yet over".

Israel had previously rejected a Russian proposal that Iranian forces be kept 80km from the frontier, according to Israeli officials.

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