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Syria Calls Evacuation of White Helmets ‘Criminal’


An Israeli solider provides water to Syria Civil Defense group members during the evacuation from the Golan Heights, Israel, in this still image taken from video, provided by the Israeli Army, July 22, 2018.
Syria Calls Evacuation of White Helmets ‘Criminal’
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Syria has criticized the evacuation from Syria of hundreds of Syrian White Helmet rescue workers to Jordan.

A Syrian foreign ministry official called the action a “criminal process” that showed the “true nature” of the White Helmets. The comments were reported by Syria’s state-run SANA news service.

The official said the evacuation demonstrated the involvement of Israel, the United States and other western allies in supporting the White Helmets. The group has received support from the U.S. and other Western nations.

The volunteer group - officially known as Syria Civil Defense - was formed in 2013. It includes workers who enter attack areas before anyone else to rescue people in rebel-held territory.

The group says it is neutral in Syria’s civil war. But the Syrian government has accused the White Helmets of working to help rebel fighters. Syrian officials have called the White Helmets a “terrorist group.”

In this file photo, volunteers of the Syrian Civil Defense, known as the White Helmets, rescue a woman from the wreckage of a building after an airstrike in Douma, eastern Ghouta, March 19, 2018.
In this file photo, volunteers of the Syrian Civil Defense, known as the White Helmets, rescue a woman from the wreckage of a building after an airstrike in Douma, eastern Ghouta, March 19, 2018.

The Jordanian government said in a statement Sunday that 422 White Helmet members were moved from Syria to Jordan. The statement said Jordan agreed to accept the workers after Britain, Germany and Canada promised to help resettle them in the coming months.

The Israeli military cooperated with U.S. and European allies to carry out the evacuation. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about the action in a video message. He said U.S. President Donald Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and others sought help to move the rescue workers out of Syria.

The operation took place near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Officials say Syrian troops had surrounded the White Helmets there. Syrian government forces and Russian allies have been fighting an offensive against Syrian rebels in the area.

This photo, released by the Syrian Civil Defense, shows the group workers setting up a shelter for civilians who fled from Daraa after shelling by Syrian government forces, in the town of Qunaitra, southwestern Syria, June 28, 2018.
This photo, released by the Syrian Civil Defense, shows the group workers setting up a shelter for civilians who fled from Daraa after shelling by Syrian government forces, in the town of Qunaitra, southwestern Syria, June 28, 2018.

“These are people who saved lives and whose lives are now in danger,” Netanyahu said. “I authorized bringing them through Israel to other countries as an important humanitarian gesture,” he added.

Britain’s foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, praised the evacuation and thanked Israel and Jordan in a tweet. The White Helmets, Hunt said, “are the bravest of the brave and in a desperate situation.”

The U.S. State Department said in a statement it welcomed the operation. It called on the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russia to honor their promises to “end the violence, and protect all Syrian civilians.”

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse and VOA News. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

evacuationn. the action of leaving or removing someone from a dangerous place

authorize v. give official permission for something

gesture n. something a person does to show others how they feel about a person or situation

desperate adj. very bad or difficult to deal with

abide by phrasal verb. obey a rule

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