JERUSALEM: Israel evacuated 800 White Helmets rescuers and their families from Syria to Jordan overnight at the request of the United States and European countries, army radio said on Sunday.
The request came as the volunteer rescuers were threatened by advancing forces of the Syrian regime in the south of the war-ravaged country, the radio station reported.
Jordan said it would transfer the Syrians to Britain, Canada and Germany.
Founded in 2013, the Syria Civil Defence, or White Helmets, are a network of first responders who rescue wounded in the aftermath of air strikes, shelling or blasts in rebel-held territory.
“Following an Israeli government directive and at the request of the United States and additional European countries, the IDF recently completed a humanitarian effort to rescue members of a Syrian civil organisation and their families,” said the Israel Defence Forces.
“The civilians were evacuated from the war zone in southern Syria due to an immediate threat to their lives,” the IDF said on its Twitter account, describing the move as “an exceptional humanitarian gesture”.
“The civilians were subsequently transferred to a neighbouring country,” it said without elaborating.
“Israel continues to maintain a non-intervention policy regarding the Syrian conflict and continues to hold the Syrian regime accountable for all activities in Syrian territory.”
Israel has been sending medical aid to civilians who have fled fighting in the Syrian-controlled part of the Golan Heights.
Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan area from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it, in a move never recognised internationally.—AFP