Author: MATT DRAKE
The Syrian White Helmets and their families were stranded along the frontier following President Assad’s forces offensive in southwestern Syria, which began in June.
Britain, Germany and Canada have agreed to take the White Helemts – who dig people out from rubble after airstrikes – within three months.
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement: “The White Helmets have saved over 115,000 lives during the Syrian conflict, at great risk to their own.
“White Helmets have been the target of attacks and, due to their high profile, we judged that, in these particular circumstances, the volunteers required immediate protection.
“We therefore took steps with the aim of affording that protection to as many of the volunteers and their families as possible.
“We pay tribute to the brave and selfless work that White Helmets volunteers have done to save Syrians on all sides of the conflict.”
Former MI5 officer James Le Mesurier, who is considered to have founded the group in Turkey in 2013, said on Sunday that 422 people were rescued, which included 98 White Helmets.
Israel said the evacuation came at the request of the US and a number of European countries.
Israeli forces were expecting around 800 people, but just over half of that number is believed to have crossed the border.
The group are currently in Jordan where they have been given temporary asylum.
Assad considers the group to be a terrorist organisation because it works in areas controlled by jihadi rebels.
The White Helmets are western-funded and gained worldwide acclaim in 2016 when a UK documentary on the group won an Oscar.
But the group is not without controversy.
The organisation fired one of its members after he was filmed handling mutilated corpses and helping armed militants dispose of the bodies of pro-Assad fighters.
In a statement, the group claimed it was just one rogue individual acting alone.
There is also video evidence of White Helmets “assisting” with a public execution by taking a man’s body away from the scene after he was shot dead.
The group also gained widespread criticism in 2016 when it staged a “Mannequin Challenge” video of an injured man being rescued from rubble.
They apologised saying it was an “error of judgement”.