Canada: Israel's role in rescuing White Helmet volunteers 'indispensable'

Without Israel "there was no way to save their lives" says Canada's Deputy Head of Mission Anthony Hinton

July 25, 2018 15:35
2 minute read.

Syrian "White Helmets" evacuated to Jordan, July 22, 2018 (Reuters)

Syrian "White Helmets" evacuated to Jordan, July 22, 2018 (Reuters)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


Israel’s role was “indispensable” in saving the lives of the “White Helmet” rescue workers and their families, Canada’s Deputy Head of Mission Anthony Hinton told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

“From Canada’s perspective, Israel’s role was indispensable...

There was no way to save these Syrians without Israel’s coordination, collaboration and leadership,” Hinton, who was acting ambassador during the operation, said in a telephone interview.

“The IDF were the ones who made it happen on the ground,” he stressed.

While the original plan had been to bring the Syrian Civil Defense volunteers and their families totaling 800 people directly to Jordan, in the end only 98 White Helmet rescue workers and 324 of their family members crossed into Israel from southern Syria on Saturday night and were then bussed into Jordan.

A report by Canada’s Globe and Mail on Tuesday said that one of the group’s leaders, Raed Salah, met with Canada’s Istanbul-based special envoy to Syria Robin Wettlaufer, and pleaded to mobilize a rescue effort to save them before it was too late.

What followed was an unprecedented operation that was in the works for two weeks after Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland approached her NATO counterparts on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels on July 11.

According to Hinton, both Israel and Jordan were approached right away and did not hesitate to play a role in the operation, which lasted several hours in the dark of night.

Nimrod Barkan, Israel’s ambassador to Ottawa, told the newspaper that when he was approached by Freeland “there was no disagreement.

We saw eye to eye with her.”

The IDF said that the “exceptional humanitarian gesture” came following the request of Canada, the United States and European countries and in accordance with the directives of the political echelon.

While Israel’s role in rescuing the Syrian White Helmets was applauded across the international community, an official statement released by the group on Monday failed to acknowledge Israel’s role in the rescue.

“Israel’s actions speak loud and clear,” Hinton said. “Without their role in this operation, we would not have been able to save their lives.”

Reconciliation deals negotiated between the regime and rebels in southwestern Syria offered a truce to fighters and civilians, but no truce was being offered to White Helmet workers or anyone affiliated with them.

“The White Helmets have been heroic and very committed to saving lives of civilians during the civil war in Syria, and their owns lives are at risk right now. They are viewed by Russia and the regime as terrorists because they have documented the atrocities of the regime,” Hinton told the Post.

The White Helmets feared their fate if captured, saying in the statement that the “trapped volunteers would otherwise have faced detention or death at the hands of the Syrian regime and its ally Russia.”

“The targeting of the White Helmets by the Syrian regime has been systematic and well documented,” adding that 251 volunteers have been killed since the group’s formation.

The Syrian government criticized the evacuation as a “criminal operation” that “exposed the true nature of the organization known as the White Helmets.”

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
April 22, 2019
PLO to discuss revoking Israel recognition, ending security coordination