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Syria’s White Helmets: We went to Israel for fear of regime reprisals

A man, member of Syrian civil defense organization, White Helmets lets a white pigeon to fly for people who lost his life in chemical attack that in the Eastern Ghouta region of Damascus, Syria on 22 August, 2017 [Amer Almohibany/Anadolu Agency]
A man, member of Syrian civil defense organization, White Helmets lets a white pigeon to fly for people who lost his life in chemical attack that in the Eastern Ghouta region of Damascus, Syria on 22 August, 2017 [Amer Almohibany/Anadolu Agency]

The Syrian civil defence group the White Helmets turned to foreign countries for refuges for fear of reprisals from the Syrian regime, the group’s head said.

Raed al-Saleh explained that questions raised about the intervention of foreign countries to help evacuate some of the group’s members and their families through Israel were logical, but called to take into consideration “the accusations and hostile statements made by the Syrian regime and its Russian allies against the group since its inception in 2013”.

He stressed that the group did not have any direct contact or coordination with Israel, explaining that the group had only contacted supporting countries and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and eventually Canada and some EU countries proposed to transfer them via Israel after the Syrian regime rejected their request to leave to northern Syria with opposition groups.

OPINION: The evacuation of the White Helmets through Israel raises suspicions

“We had to agree to this solution because we had no other choice to protect the volunteers and their families who were stranded in the south as the regime forces advanced to the region. Supporting countries and the UNHCR are the mediators to transfer 98 of our members with their families, so in total 422 people were transferred across the occupied Golan,” Al-Saleh said.

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