The Russian Embassy in Israel slammed the White Helmets rescue service as "pseudo-humanitarians" Tuesday, after Israel received widespread praise for evacuating hundreds of members of the organization and their families from Syria into Jordan over the weekend.
The embassy tweeted that the group members were "creators of fake news." It also referred to the group as "militants," saying they "acted exclusively in areas controlled by Islamic radicals, concocted fake news, staged chemical provocations like in Eastern Ghouta. They flee Syria and reveal who they are."
The reference to Eastern Ghouta concerns the deadly chemical attack in the town of Douma in April. That attack killed dozens of civilians and prompted airstrikes by Britain, France and the United States. The Syrian government denied carrying out any chemical attacks, a stance backed by Russia. It has consistently backed Syrian President Bashar Assad since intervening in the civil war some three years ago.
The White Helmets group was established as a rescue service in rebel-held areas of Syria, where its volunteers have often worked to save people trapped under rubble following bombardments by the Assad regime.
Israel received members of the White Helmets at the Israeli-Syrian border on Saturday night and bused them to Jordan.
- Israel evacuates hundreds of members of White Helmets rescue group from Syria
- White Helmets rescue shows that Israel is involved in Syria way beyond humanitarian aid
- Syria blasts Israel's 'criminal operation' after evacuation of White Helmets activists
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said U.S. President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were among the Western leaders who asked that Israel help get the group's members out of Syria.
"These people who saved lives were now under mortal threat," Netanyahu said in a statement. "I therefore authorized transferring them through Israel to other countries as an important humanitarian measure."
The Russian Embassy tweet included a link to a statement saying: "It is well known that it was the White Helmets who were implicated in the most odious provocations during the Syrian conflict.
"Their preferred technique was to stage and shoot propaganda videos that were later widely shared by the Western media and online," the statement added.
The Syrian government has accused the White Helmets – also known as Syria Civil Defense – of being a Western-sponsored terrorist organization. Assad has called the White Helmets part of Al-Qaida in Syria.