In in 2016 and 2017, the white helmets – Syrian volunteers who risked their lives after air strikes, barrel bombing and chemical weapons attacks to rescue civilians trapped in ruins – were among the frontrunners in the Nobel Peace Prize. A collection of bakers, tailors, engineers, pharmacists, painters, carpenters and students nicknamed for their protective hats have rescued more than a hundred thousand people in Syria's evil civil war. Her rescues produced iconic images: a small boy, crusted in dust and blood, sitting in silent shock on an orange ambulance; the triumphant rescue of a mere ten-day-old "miracle baby," which was pulled out under huge concrete slabs after sixteen hours of digging. The baby's senior rescuer was killed two years later in an airstrike, presumably carried out by government troops. So far, more than two hundred white helmets have been killed, while others have been saved. Her motto is: "Saving a life means saving all humanity." A film about her won the 201
Over the weekend, the White Helmets themselves had to be rescued. The flight of hundreds of rescuers marks a strategic and psychological turning point in the seven-year war. In a brutal blitzouch launched last month, the Russian Air Force-backed Syrian military retook territory in the southwest, along the border with Israel and Jordan, the birthplace of the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011. The first protests began in the city of Dara & # 39; a, after there schoolchildren had been arrested for painting anti-government graffiti. As the demonstrations spread nationwide, Assad unleashed his military. The uprising turned into a civil war that has killed an estimated half a million people today.
This month, Dara & a; a finally fell Assad's weapons. Armed rebels agreed to the terms of surrender, which allowed them either to reconcile with the government or to evacuate to the northern province of Idlib on the border with Turkey. However, the Russians reportedly resisted bringing civilian White Helmets funded by Western governments to safety. Syria and Russia have falsely accused them of being terrorists and jihadists because they work in opposition areas where there are few or no government services. On their website, the group claims to "save people on all sides of the conflict." In earlier capitulation agreements, white helmets were reportedly detained by government forces in Syrian notorious prisons.
Hundreds of white helmets, including both men and women, fled with their families to the Israeli border. Syria and Israel are still technically at war, and there are no official exit or entry points on either side. The white helmets were trapped. As their fate became increasingly precarious, Western governments pressed to see how they should be saved; They were even discussed at the NATO summit in Brussels this month. The United States, Canada and European countries appealed to Israel and Jordan for help. For the past seven years, Israel has formally avoided intervention in the Syrian civil war. The air strikes targeted Iranian and Hezbollah operations in Syria, which threatened Israel. This is consistent with a long-standing policy that existed before the Civil War. Jordan, which had already welcomed over six hundred thousand Syrian refugees, had closed its borders to other refugees before the new offensive.
At the end of last week, however, Israel and Jordan signed the Europeans and Canada after appeals by the Trump administration. The Israeli government agreed to evacuate the White Helmets and bring them to Jordan. The Jordanian government agreed to take over eight hundred in all. The evacuation started late on Saturday night. It was difficult to communicate the plan with the stranded group of white helmets. The operation, which demanded border crossing at three points, came close to failing as ISIS militants in the region moved to one location, the Washington Post reported leaving some members of the group isolated , With the help of searchlights from the Israeli side, about half of the White Helmets made their way across the Israeli border, exhausted and anxious. The Israeli security forces captured about a hundred white helmets and about three hundred of their family members. They were taken on buses across the Golan Heights to Jordan.
"The lives of these people who saved lives were now in danger," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "I have authorized their transfer through Israel to other countries as an important humanitarian gesture." As part of the agreement, the White Helmets are resettled in Britain, Canada and Germany after being reviewed in Jordan, a process that is expected to take place
It is not expected that the White Helmets will be relocated to the United States, though the US government has long supported the Syrian first responders. In the past, the US provided up to one-third of the group's funding. Foreign Ministry officials invited or invited their members to Washington later this year. President Trump personally supported the evacuation mission. But Syria is one of the countries on its recently maintained travel ban.
In contrast, the Canadian State Department said it felt a "deep moral responsibility towards these brave and unselfish people." The British government said it was forced to wear some white helmets because the group had done "courageous and selfless work" to "save the Syrians on all sides of the conflict". German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said: "Humanity dictates many of them. Courageous first responders should now find shelter and refuge, some of them in Germany."
Assad's latest offensive does not mean the end of the White Helmets group officially named "Syrian Civil defense "is known. But the pressure on members who remain in pockets that the government has not yet recaptured is likely to increase in the coming months. In its heyday, the White Helmets claimed about 3,400 members and made the group the largest civic movement outside government control during the war. It also repaired basic services such as electricity disrupted by the fighting.
The Assad regime, backed by massive Russian and Iranian military support, has now re-established control of most of Syria, including most of its largest cities. The last large remnants are pockets in the east, occupied by ISIS fighters and the province of Idlib, in the north on the Turkish border. For the White Helmets, there is the most immediate threat to the nearly four hundred members of the group and their relatives who did not make it from the southwest during the Israeli evacuation. Their fate remains uncertain – and even more precarious.