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Joint operation saves hundreds of volunteers in Syria, but hundreds more are still trapped

Syrian Civil Defence volunteers, also known as the White Helmets, and Syrian Red Crescent members evacuate a wounded woman following a reported airstrike that targeted the Idlib bus station on Jan. 18, 2017. A joint Israeli, Jordanian, and UK operation rescued 422 White Helmets from Syria, and up to 300 reportedly remain trapped. (Omar haj kadour/AFP/Getty Images)

Over the weekend, 422 people, including volunteers known as "White Helmets" and their families, were rescued from Syria in a joint mission led by the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Israel, and Jordan. Up to 300 more are still trapped inside Syria.

Remind me again...what's happening in Syria?

The Syrian civil war began in March 2011. Syrian rebel forces had hoped to oust dictator Bashar al-Assad. However, as the war drags on, Assad and his Russian allies have slowly been gaining control of the entire country.

Assad has been ruthless in his fight with the rebels, and has been accused multiple times of using chemical weapons against civilian areas in an attempt to defeat his enemies. More than half a million people have died in the conflict, 85 percent of which were civilians killed by the regime.

What are the White Helmets?

Officially known as the Syrian Civil Defense, the White Helmets are a volunteer organization founded in 2013 that seeks to provide humanitarian aid in war-torn Syria. According to their website, the White Helmets claim to have saved more than 114,431 lives in Syria.

To emphasize their sole mandate to provide humanitarian aid, the White Helmets made a point of being unarmed and providing aid to anyone who needs it, whether they support the rebels or the regime. The group is funded in part by the British government.

Despite their pledge to help victims on both sides, the Syrian and Russian governments consider the White Helmets to be a terrorist organization.

At least 200 White Helmets have been killed since the group began work in Syria.

How did this rescue mission go?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed Sunday that Israel had joined the mission at the request of President Donald Trump.

The countries involved in the rescue had determined that the White Helmets were facing an imminent threat. After negotiations, the White Helmets and their families were evacuated from Syria by Israeli forces on Saturday into the Israeli-controlled part of the Golan Heights region, and from there into Jordan. The 422 people included women and children.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi tweeted on Sunday:

For humanitarian reasons, Jordan gave the United Nations permission to organize the passage of Syrians who entered the Occupied Golan after Britain, Germany and Canada presented a legally binding pledge to resettle them after three months. The number requested was 800 but the actual number settled at 422.

Jordan will only be a temporary stopping place for those rescued. The UK, Germany, and Canada will help to permanently resettle these evacuees, reportedly within a three month time period.

Up to 300 White Helmets are still trapped.

CNN reports that one member of the group reached out to them on Sunday, and said: "We are 300 volunteer members and calling upon the countries of UK, Canada, Jordan, America to continue their efforts in evacuating the remaining members of the White Helmets."

He added, "Help us and save our lives."

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