The Syrian regime this week looked set to wipe out the last pocket of rebels in the south of the country, marking a victory for president Bashar al-Assad’s counter-revolution.
The last rebel fighters in south west Syria, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, were evacuating as Socialist Worker went to press. Many of them have been allowed to leave and go to another rebel-controlled area in the north west.
Thousands of Syrian refugees are now trapped at the borders between Syria, Jordan and the Golan Heights.
Israel and Jordan—both strong allies of the US and Britain—have refused to take in refugees fleeing the fighting in southern Syria.
Yet in a highly-publicised operation, the Israeli military did help to evacuate members of the White Helmets, an organisation that responds to regime airstrikes.
Volunteers of the organisation, known officially as the Syrian Civil Defence, were taken to Jordan.
The Israeli military described the evacuation as an “exceptional humanitarian gesture”.
The British government—which locks out thousands of refugees at its borders in northern France—has offered asylum to 500 White Helmets.
In a self-congratulatory tweet British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said, “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.”
Trained by former British spy and army officer James Le Mesurier, the White Helmets have received hundreds of millions of pounds from Western governments.
They are one of a number of groups in Syria set up or cynically backed by competing imperial forces to further their own interests.
The Assad regime sought to crush the popular revolution in 2011 by bombarding the towns, cities and villages that were the sites of mass demonstrations.
Armed groups—known collectively as the Free Syrian Army (FSA)—formed to defend the protests but soon became the focus of resistance to the regime.
It was a genuine revolution, part of the Arab Spring.
As the fighting continued, many FSA groups came to depend on support and funding from competing regional and global powers.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Monday how Israel is trying to use a militia known as the Knights of the Golan to gain a foothold in Syrian territory.
Israel invaded the Syrian Golan Heights in 1967, then later annexed it. Now it is worried that Assad’s counter-revolution will bring Syrian and Iranian soldiers close to the border.
After the rebels’ defeat, the Syrian army is supposed to fall back along a separation zone. But the Knights will still be allowed to operate inside the zone.
Meanwhile other rebel fighters in the south have been abandoned by the West. The US told rebel groups not to “base your decisions on the assumption or expectation of a military intervention by us”.
Their defeat and abandonment blows apart the idea that the Syrian revolution could have relied on the support of imperialism against the regime.