UPDATE 1800 GMT: An armed gang has attacked another civil defense center.
Mustafa al-Haj Yousif, the director of civil defense in Idlib Province, said the men tried to block the center in the Jabal al-Zawiya region before infiltrating. Volunteers responded by appealing to the residents, security forces, and rebel factions.
Yousif said the one of the gang fired live ammunition before the group withdrew.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Volunteers of the White Helmets civil defense organization have protested throughout Syria over the killing of seven of their colleagues in a gang attack.
The men at the Sarmin civil defense center in Idlib Province in northwest Syria were each shot in the head on Saturday by assailants who stole money, two minibuses being used as ambulances, and equipment. The attackers have not been identified.
The seven slain rescuers were Ziad Hasan Qadahnoun; Basel Mustafa Qassas; Mohammad Shbib (Abu Zaid); Abulrazzak Hasan Haj Khalil; Mohammad Deib Elhir (Abu Kifah); Mohammad Kruma; and Obaida Al-Radwan.
Raed Saleh, the head of the White Helmets said:
It is hard to find to words to describe my martyred colleagues; each of them leaves stories of hope behind in lives they’ve saved and injured they’ve rescued. I feel very proud of their humanitarian actions and the legacy they leave. We promise the Syrian people this crime will not deter us from serving them and alleviating their suffering.
The White Helmets, created in 2013, have reportedly saved more than 95,000 lives in their rescue operations. Almost 200 have been killed in the line of duty, the large majority by Assad regime and Russian airstrikes.
To legimitize the killings, Russian State outlets have pursued a campaign — especially since Moscow’s military intervention in September 2015, which has destroyed scores of hospitals, clinics, civil defense centers, and other facilities — declaring that the White Helmets are linked to both a US conspiracy and “Al Qa’eda”. The line has been loudly taken up by some activists and commentators in the West, such as Vanessa Beeley and Max Blumenthal.
Writer and activist Lina Sergie Attar noted on Sunday:
In case it's not clear, everyone who took/take part in the smear campaigns against the White Helmets have a hand in this massacre.
— Lina Sergie Attar (@AmalHanano) August 13, 2017