Rebels reach north Syria after evacuations from south


Canada has been among several countries that have provided moral and financial support to the White Helmets, which are officially known as Syria Civil Defence, including $7.5 million over the past two years to help recruit and train women.

The kingdom agreed to a request by Britain, Germany and Canada to give the White Helmet workers temporary asylum in the kingdom before settlement in the West on humanitarian grounds, spokesman Mohammad al Kayed said.

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

Ottawa confirmed that Trudeau spoke to Netanyahu Saturday about "the regional security situation and the evacuation of White Helmets from Syria". Israeli media said the prime minister pressed for, among other things, keeping pro-Iranian forces in Syria at least 60 miles from the Israeli border.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt called the evacuations "fantastic news", and the Trump administration said it "deeply appreciates" Israel's role and Jordan's "generosity".

It is not clear if the White Helmets who have been previously evacuated to Idlib from other parts of Syria will receive similar treatment.

Many White Helmets volunteers have also been killed while doing their work - trying to rescue civilians trapped in bombarded buildings or providing first aid to injured civilians.

It added that the White Helmets supported "terrorists" and that the world had been warned of the group's "dangers", according to Syria's state news agency Sana.

The rescuers and their families are expected to be resettled in Europe and Canada. A Syrian offensive that began last month has battered the few remaining rebel holdouts, and Assad continues to solidify gains and his power.

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The civil war in Syria has dragged on for more than seven years, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths and an unrelenting humanitarian crisis.

The Associated Press first reported on Friday that USA officials were finalizing plans to evacuate several hundred Syrian civil defense workers and their families from southwest Syria as Russian-backed government forces closed in on the area along the Golan Heights frontier.

Still, a war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, also reported the air strike and said it targeted a "workshop supervised by Iranians where surface-to-surface missiles are made".

Israel's vigilance was underscored by the launch of its latest, US -backed missile shield against rockets that it said were fired from within Syria but which fell short of the Golan lines.

Evacuation plans were accelerated after last week's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Brussels.

The Israeli government signalled it would not impede the Syrian army presence in Quneitra as long as Syrian forces steered away from a demilitarised zone along the border.

"They are now being assisted by the UNHCR in Jordan pending global resettlement".

Aron Lund, a Syria expert with the Century Foundation, said after the global community's funding and promoting the White Helmets for years, the evacuation should not be a surprise.