Syria crisis is a final test of the world’s humanity, says head of the White Helmets


The crisis in Syria was utterly avoidable and how world leaders choose to protect the 3.5 million people in Idlib is a final test of the world’s humanity Raed Al-Saleh head of the frontline rescue workers, the White Helmets said today.


With close to one million people forced to flee Syrian regime and Russian bombs in just 40 days, displacement camps along the border are overcrowded and people are sleeping out in the open, in their cars on the roadside and unfinished buildings.


But as the humanitarian crisis reaches breaking point, Saleh says the UN and world leaders have forecast this scenario for years and yet there is still no plan to protect or provide for millions of civilians.


“Peaceful activists, humanitarians and civilians have been forced to Idlib from across Syria and now they have nowhere left to go. We have been warning that Idlib is a dangerous “kill-box” for years,” said Saleh. “I have personally met with foreign ministers and some of the most powerful people on the planet to ask them to help stop the killing of civilians and humanitarians, but my calls have not yielded any action. Russia and the Syrian regime are allowed to flout international law without consequence.


“Today world leaders face a final test of their humanity and international institutions must ask if international humanitarian laws are only applicable in certain geographic areas.”


Two thousand eight hundred White Helmets volunteers are working hard to prepare shelters and tents for the displaced and helping them to evacuate to safer areas. They have prepared five new camps with tents for 600 families this month, providing first aid to the injured in camps and equipping centres with blankets, mattresses and drinking water.


Teams of White Helmet volunteers have saved 926 lives so far this year but 369 people, including 97 children, have lost their lives in northwest Syria.


Many of the White Helmet volunteers are themselves displaced and torn between doing all they can to keep their families safe and risk their lives on the frontlines.


“My teammates are working under the most difficult and dangerous conditions. They rush to the scene of a bombing to pull children from the rubble, visit newborn babies trying to survive in freezing tents and build shelters for those seeking safety.


“But we have been abandoned by those with the power to stop the bombing. We are asking once again for governments who claim to defend human rights to step up, come together to make a plan and finally protect civilians.”


Attacks: 1 January until 19 February 2020

– Russian and regime forces have committed 2,201 airstrikes, 32 internationally-prohibited cluster bomb attacks, dropped 605 barrel bombs and fired more than 8,000 missiles and artillery shells in Idlib, Aleppo, and Hama.

– These attacks have killed 369 people, including 97 children, 51 women, and two White Helmet volunteers as a result of direct targeting and double tap raids.

– Most of the attacks targeted civilian homes and vital infrastructure. The White Helmets have documented the following:

  • 14 markets

  • 10 hospitals and medical points

  • 12 schools

  • 6 mosques and 1 church

  • 12 White Helmets centres

  • 245 main roads used by those fleeing

  • 4 power plants

  • 2 bakeries