TEL AVIV – The IDF on Sunday helped 422 Syrians and their families from the “White Helmets” rescue organization cross over the border into Israel, with the Israeli commander of the project describing their eyes as “twinkling from happiness” at having escaped the brutal Assad regime.
“There’s no doubt that it was an emotional position to be in yesterday, to stand on the border fence and accept the families, mostly women and children,” said Lt. Col. “Aleph,” whose full name cannot be disclosed for security reasons.
After bringing them to the Israeli side of the Golan Heights, the IDF’s 210th Bashan Division oversaw the transfer of the 422 White Helmet workers into Jordan.
“The families crossed [the fence], at first apprehensively, but once they reached the border, their eyes twinkled from happiness with the knowledge that they’d gotten their lives back. I am happy to be an officer in an army and in a country that is carrying out this mission and expressing the values of humaneness and compassion,” Aleph said.
“This is the nature of our work and this is a significant moment like no other.”
Jordan’s official Petra news service reported that the Syrian refugees will be resettled in Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany within three months, since the Hashemite Kingdom is no longer accepting refugees from Syria.
On Sunday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said President Donald Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other world leaders had requested Israel’s help in transferring the White Helmets through Israel into Jordan.
“These are people who have saved lives and whose lives were in mortal danger. Therefore, I approved their passage through Israel to additional countries, as an important humanitarian gesture,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
In the past five years, Israel has treated more than 5,000 Syrians in field hospitals and hospitals around the country as part of Operation Good Neighbor.
Israel has also sent aid packages, with hundreds of tons of food, medicine and clothing over the border.
However, this is the first time Israel has facilitated a mass transfer of refugees.
The IDF stressed that the gesture, which was “out of the ordinary,” was due to the “immediate risk” posed by the regime.
According to one eyewitness account, it was “one of the most moving operations. There were lots of children.”
Syrian state TV Al-Ikhbariya, on the other hand, said it was a “scandal” by “terrorist groups.”
Canada confirmed its involvement in the operation.
“Canada, working in close partnership with the United Kingdom and Germany, has been leading an international effort to ensure the safety of White Helmets and their families,” Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland said in a statement.