‘We are trapped’, say White Helmets in Syria
A senior member of the White Helmets in Syria called on the United Nations to increase government forces to save the lives of colleagues trapped in the south west of the country.
Officially known as Syrian Civil Defence, the organisation has saved thousands of lives in the insurgent-controlled areas during years of bombing attacks by Damascus and its’ allies.
Last week, Israel and other Western powers helped 422 White Helmets and their families evacuate from Syria to Jordan, but others were unable to reach Jordan because of the government checkpoints and the expansion of the Islamic State in the region.
With the support of the Russian army, the troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad occupied most of the southern province of Dar'a in the offensive that began in June.
Majd Khalaf, one of the Founders of the White Helmets, commented:
“We want the U.N. or any international agency to remove the White Helmet volunteers from Deraa to Idlib so we can continue to work in the north of Syria. It is so hard when White Helmets have to leave people behind - and they also have to start their lives over.”
The organisation has more than 3,700 men and women in Syria, and more than 200 volunteers have been killed to date during the seven-year civil war.
Volunteers, known for their white helmets, say they are in a neutral position. However, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his supporters, including Russia, have seen it as a propaganda tool sponsored by the West.
The Syrian government on Monday condemned last week’s evacuation as a “criminal act” by “Israel and its tools”.
Last month, government forces supported by Russian airpowers swept through southwestern Syria in one of the fiercest campaigns of the war. So far the Syrian Civil war has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced 11 million.
Raed Al Saleh, Director of the White Helmets, said the volunteers are helpless because they are a civilian organisation.
“Unfortunately we wish we could stay in these areas, but it is not in our hands. We are asking for their evacuation to protect them.”
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Image credit: Syrian Civil Defence