Israel at the weekend played a critical role in rescuing hundreds of humanitarian workers and their families trapped in southern Syria.
Eight hundred so-called "White Helmets" and their family members had taken refuge in Quneitra, the one small part of southern Syria not already under the control of Russian-backed regime forces.
The White Helmets are mostly Syrian nationals who over the past several years have taken it upon themselves to conduct rescue operations following major military confrontations in the war-torn country. They operate mostly in rebel-held territory where nearly all civil services have collapsed. But, that's resulted in them being identified with opposition forces, and therefore a target for the Syrian army.
The US, UK, Germany and Canada had all been aiding the White Helmets logistically in recent months. As it became clear that the forces of dictator Bashar Assad would reconquer the south of Syria, those same nations lobbied Israel and Jordan to help get them out, with the promise that the White Helmets and their families could then take up residence in the West.
Over the weekend, a convoy of buses carrying the White Helmets streamed into northern Israel under cover of darkness. They were then escorted by Israeli and UN forces to a border crossing into Jordan.
Israelis involved in the rescue operation told Hadashot news that it was one of the most emotional efforts to help Syria to date. "There were lots of children," said one Israeli.
German media covered the evacuation more closely, with one reporter posting a short video clip of the Syrian buses being met and escorted by Israeli forces:
— Paul Ronzheimer (@ronzheimer) July 22, 2018
PHOTO: Volunteers with the humanitarian group "White Helmets" search for survivors following a bombing in Idlib, Syria. (EPA-EFE/MOHAMMED BADRA)