An Israeli solider hands out water on a bus, during the Syria Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, extraction from the Golan Heights.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON UNIT VIA REUTERS)
On Saturday night when the evacuation of White Helmets and their families began from Syria the western governments, UN and Jordan hoped that up to 800 people might be brought out of Syria. But when the buses were filled only 422 had made it through. Survivors, stranded in Syria, told CNN that up to 300 White Helmet members and their families still want to flee.
“Syrian regime checkpoints did not allow the majority of us to reach the evacuation point,” Abu Mohamad, a Syrian Civil Defense, often known as ‘White Helmets’, volunteer told CNN. “The situation is getting worse by the minute.” This has been exacerbated by the operation that saved 422 people because the Syrian regime has condemned the operation as “criminal” and accused the White Helmets of being “tools” of Israel. Russia’s foreign ministry has also criticized them for having foreign assistance fulfilling orders of western governments “whose money they existed on.” This means there is a spotlight in southern Syria on the remaining members. “The regime is looking for us,” the volunteer told CNN. “We are currently appealing to the world and don’t know our fate. Our situation is very miserable. We are besieged,” a second volunteer said.
According to the report the last group were told to make their way out without their families. This is likely because single men could travel more easily to get around regime checkpoints, than groups of families and hundreds of people. A statement Monday by the Syrian Civil Defense did not mention the stranded group but did note that the group has been targeted by the Syrian regime. The statement says 251 volunteers have been killed over the last years during the conflict.
The Syrian regime recently began to update its official records with names of those who were killed while in detention over the years. The White Helmets fear their fate if captured. However the border area is now very sensitive on the Golan after a Syrian fighter jet was show down Tuesday.
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