Syrian army pushes into Quneitra province


Supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and his Russian allies, say the White Helmets support the rebels and also have links to jihadist groups.

Another White Helmets volunteer, Mohammad Abdallah, told CNN he was told to cross to the Golan Heights without their families, "which was something rejected by us because the retribution by the Syrian regime and its allied militias is a bigger (risk to) our families".

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi tweeted Sunday that the country had originally planned to evacuate 800 Syrians but the actual number settled at 422.

Hundreds of aid workers of the "White Helmet" civil defence group and their families were evacuated from Syria early Sunday in an worldwide operation that transported them through Israel and into Jordan as the forces of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad closed in.

Syrian authorities have long described the Civil Defense search-and-rescue group, which are popularly known as the White Helmets, as a terror organization.

On Saturday afternoon, state news agency SANA said preparations were underway to ferry a second wave of people from Quneitra to the north of Syria.

Canada will resettle up to 50 White Helmets and their families, a Canadian official with direct knowledge of the resettlement efforts told CNN. Thousands of armed men and their families were evacuated over the weekend.

He tweeted: 'Fantastic news that we - United Kingdom and friends - have secured evacuation of White Helmets and their families - thank you Israel and Jordan for acting so quickly on our request.

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It was feared that they would be persecuted by advancing government forces in southern Syria.

In a statement on Monday the group said during the southwest campaign four of its volunteers were killed and dozens injured, four White Helmet centres were hit and rescue vehicles were destroyed by Syrian government bombardment.

The statement, however, did not mention the group by name at the time, but German tabloid Bild said some 800 members of the "White Helmets" were expected to be brought to Jordan through Israel to be reportedly resettled later in the UK, Canada, and Germany.

Britain, Germany and Canada have agreed to take the White Helemts - who dig people out from rubble after airstrikes - within three months. The group would be linked to a U.S. -Russian-Jordanian center set up a year ago in Jordan for monitoring a cease-fire in southwest Syria, said Major-General Milkahil Mizintsev.

Last year, a Netflix production called The White Helmets won an Academy Award for the best short documentary. But Israel has said it will not allow the refugees to enter Israel.

Its main task soon became to rescue civilians in war zones in the immediate aftermath of air strikes, and it says its volunteers have saved the lives of more than 100,000 people during the civil war.

Exactly when the White Helmets will arrive is unclear; the rescued Syrians are expected to remain in a United Nations refugee camp for at least three months to allow for processing.