Amid years of chaos, destruction and a bloody civil war in Syria, emerged a group of rescue and search workers known as the White Helmets. Founded in late 2012 early 2013, the White Helmets describe themselves as “former tailors, bakers, teachers, painters” and other blue-collar workers and ordinary Syrian men and women who had come together to form the “Syria Civil Defence” also known as (aka) the “White Helmets.”
That despite the presence and operations (since the 1950’s) of the government civil defence organisation (Syria Civil Defence) operating across the country. With its nearly “3,000 members,” the White Helmets operate only in “rebel-held” areas across Syria to rescue civilians trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings.
Despite claiming to be “a non-partisan organisation” the White Helmets was established by former British army officer James Le Mesurier – a veteran of “NATO interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo” – and trained by the “Turkish AKUT Search and Rescue Association.”
The group also “receives millions of dollars in financial support and funding (through Mayday Rescue and Chemonics) from the governments of the UK, Holland, Denmark, Germany, Canada, New Zealand and the USA”. Funding it says “goes towards the training, equipment and support needed to achieve their mission.”
Publicly acknowledged, the US State Department has given the White Helmets via Chemonics – “a for-profit contractor based in Washington DC” – “$23 million from 2013 to March 2016.” The British government also supplied “£38.4 million” in aid to the White Helmets as of March 2018.
In April 2018, Donald Trump‘s administration “suspended the funding to the White Helmets.” However, in June 2018 Trump’s administration “reversed its decision to suspend funding for the White Helmets and released about $6.6 million in aid to the group.” A “move” that has been “strongly condemned by the Syrian government” calling on the US to halt its financing and support for terrorism.
Humanitarian NGO in disguise
Despite claiming to be neutral and objective in carrying out its operations and “saving people on all sides of the conflict”, the White Helmets have been accused of being affiliated and embedded with “hard-line extremists and sectarian armed groups in occupying Syria” serving as the logistical and propaganda arm of (Syria’s Al Qaeda branch) and other extremist groups such as “Nour Al Din Zinki, Jaish Al Islam and ISIS”, and operating exclusively in “rebel-held” areas across Syria.
Fuelled by reports that the White Helmets are “paid mercenaries” affiliated with terrorist groups such as Al Nusra Front aka Jabhat Fateh Al Sham have led critics to question their “role and operations” in carrying out and “facilitating executions of civilians and military personnel”, “celebrating alongside terrorists over dead bodies”, “covering up opposition war crimes”, enabling “border organ trafficking operations and child abduction”, posing as fighters with artillery,”faking chemical attacks“, waving Al Qaeda and ISIS flags, “faking rescue operations, using crisis actors”, staging bodies, fabricating evidence and “using children – both dead and alive – as props for producing pro-intervention propaganda.”
The Syrian and Russian governments have accused the White Helmets of being trained agents linked to “Al Qaeda terrorists and Islamist insurgents” lobbying foreign military intervention aimed at “toppling the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.”
The founding of the White Helmets coincides with the West losing military front regarding the push for regime change and foreign military intervention in Syria. Moreover, the group’s founding took place just after the Syrian government had raised initial concerns about a “terrorist chemical weapon attack in Khan Al Asal against the Syrian Army.”
Since then, the White Helmets have been “advocating further US intervention in the form of a No-Fly Zone (NFZ) in Syria (as the preamble to regime change) claiming to possess first-hand knowledge of chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government, acting as both witnesses and responders to events that were later proven to be staged work of armed opposition groups.”
Footage of “alleged chemical attacks” documented by the White Helmets were used by the “United Nations (UN), International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission and Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)” to issue reports holding the Syrian and Russian regimes responsible for the chemical weapons attack. An accusation strongly refuted by Damascus and Moscow describing it “illogical and deliberately staged by militants.”
Precisely, the White Helmets’ “chemical attacks videos” were timed to promote calls by western governments for direct military intervention in Syria.
On April 7, 2017, the White Helmets “staged a false flag chemical attack” on Khan Sheikhoun “which prompted a US missile attack on the Sharyat Air Base in Syria.” In April 2018, “another fake nerve agent attack in Douma” – later revealed as “a hoax by the OPCW” – , nonetheless “resulted in over one hundred missile strikes by the USA, UK and France against Syria.”
Both Damascus and Moscow have repeatedly accused the White Helmets of “staging and fabricating chemical weapons attacks” to frame the Syrian government and justify a pretext for Western air strikes against Syria.”
Evacuation and resettlement
In June 2018, a large-scale operation was carried out by Syrian government forces to “regain control of strategic territory” – once-held by rebel forces – in “southwestern Syria bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights.” Backed by a Russian-brokered peace deal, rebel forces agreed to surrender and withdraw from Deraa and Quneitra provinces in Southern Syria.
As government forces advanced and took control of vast swathes of territory in the south west of the country, hundreds of White Helmets members and their families have fled near the Israeli border with the Golan Heights.
According to the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) “400 Syrians affiliated with the White Helmets and their families were evacuated from Quneitra through Israel to Jordan,” following a request by the US, the UK, Canada and its European allies.
“The evacuees were transferred, through the Golan Heights, to Jordan, from where they are to be resettled as refugees in the UK, Canada and Germany.”
A statement by Russia’s Permanent Mission to the European Union (EU) said that the evacuation operation of White Helmets’ members from Syria “proves that their Western sponsors were eager to prevent possible disclosure and exposure of the notorious provocative activities and crimes committed by the White Helmets.”