Hundreds of Syria White Helmets evacuated to Jordan by Israel

Britain, Germany and Canada have agreed to grant them asylum

Hundreds of Syria White Helmets evacuated to Jordan by Israel

A member of the White Helmets is pictured in Idlib city | Image via @SyriaCivilDef on Twitter

Around 800 White Helmet rescue workers and their families have been evacuated from Syria by Israel "due to an immediate threat to their lives".

The humanitarian operation came amid an offensive by the Russian-backed Damascus regime to retake rebel-held areas in the south of the country.

The Israeli military said the evacuation came at the request of the US and a number of European countries.

The group have been taken to Jordan where they have been given temporary asylum.

Britain, Germany and Canada agreed to take them within three months, according to Jordan's official Petra news agency.

The Israeli military said in a statement it had carried out "a humanitarian effort to rescue members of a Syrian civil organisation and their families... due to an immediate threat to their lives", adding the move was "an exceptional humanitarian gesture".

Officially known as the Syrian Civil Defence but known by their distinctive white helmets, members of the volunteer search-and-rescue force are hailed heroes by many, although supporters of Syrian President Bashar al Assad have sought to portray them as terrorists.

As such, they have been targeted by government forces.

Since its formation more than 200 of its volunteers have died and another 500 have been wounded.

Welcoming their evacuation, Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said: "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."

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted: "Fantastic news that we - UK and friends - have secured evacuation of White Helmets and their families - thank you Israel and Jordan for acting so quickly on our request.

"The WH are the bravest of the brave and in a desperate situation this is at least one ray of hope."

Planning for the evacuation had been taking place for some time but speeded up following a recent NATO summit in Brussels.