Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Justin Trudeau was among those who personnally asked that Israel evacuate hundreds of so-called White Helmets from Syria amid fears they would be attacked by government troops. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ronen Zvulun, Pool)

Canada to resettle dozens of White Helmets and their families from Syria

There are fears the volunteers would become a target for government troops

Canada has offered to take in dozens of White Helmets and their families from Syria following a dramatic rescue over the weekend that was orchestrated by the Israeli military and personally encouraged by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Named for their easily recognizable headware, the all-volunteer White Helmets have been lauded and supported by Canada and other Western nations for their role as first responders and humanitarian workers during Syria’s bloody and brutal civil war.

Canada provided the civil organization with $7.5 million over the past two years to help with recruitment and training, with a specific emphasis on women.

But with the Syrian government having regained control of much of the country and moving to wrest back the last of several rebel-held areas in recent weeks, there had been concerns that dozens of White Helmets stranded on the border with Jordan would become targets for Syrian troops.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed Sunday that Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump were among those who asked Israel to rescue the White Helmets, after leaders first talked about how to help the volunteers during the recent NATO summit in Brussels.

READ MORE: Trump returns from summit with Putin to forceful criticism

The ensuing operation saw the Israeli military evacuate hundreds of people to neighbouring Jordan, though the exact numbers were still being determined; Jordanian officials initially said that 800 Syrians were rescued, though that number was later revised down to around 425.

Writing on Twitter in Arabic, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the Syrians were allowed into the country following written commitments that Germany, Britain and Canada would resettle them following the operation.

Canada has offered to host up to 50 White Helmets and their families, a senior official confirmed to The Canadian Press on condition of anonymity. With the addition of family members, that could bring the total to around 250 Syrians, though the official said the actual number could be lower.

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

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


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