White Helmets call on UN to save trapped volunteers
White Helmets are seen inspecting the damage at a Roman ruin site in Daraa, Syria. Photograph: Alaa Faqir/Reuters
Date: 2018-07-27 12:16
Senior members of the Syrian White Helmet rescue workers have called on the United Nations to save their colleagues trapped in the south-west by advancing government forces.
Western powers helped evacuate 422 White Helmets and their families from Syria into Jordan last week but others were unable to make it out because of Assad regime’s checkpoints and the expansion of ISIS in the area.
“We want the UN or any international agency to remove the White Helmet volunteers from Daraa to Idlib so we can continue to work in the north of Syria”, said Majd Khalaf, one of the founders of the White Helmets. “It is so hard when White Helmets have to leave people behind – and they also have to start their lives over,” he told Reuters by phone from Istanbul, Turkey.
He declined to say how many White Helmets were still at risk in the area, but said the group has more than 3,700 women and men in Syria and that more than 200 volunteers have been killed in the seven-year war.
In an interview with Russian news agencies on Thursday (July 26), Assad said members of the group would be killed if they did not turn themselves in.
“Either they can lay down their arms as part of an amnesty ongoing for four or five years, or they will be liquidated like any other terrorist,” he said.
“After the control of the regime on all borders and the whole area, we are trapped and cannot move,” one White Helmet in Daraa, who declined to give his name, said via WhatsApp, adding that he feared being arrested.
Raed Al Saleh, the director of the White Helmets, said his volunteers were “helpless” as they were a civilian organisation, Guardian reported.
“Unfortunately we wish we could stay in these areas, but it is not in our hands,” he said by phone from Turkey.
“We are asking for their evacuation to protect them.”
Assad regime, backed by Russia, have captured most of the southern province of Daraa in an offensive that began in June.