Nearly 300 White Helmet rescue workers have been trapped in Syria after an evacuation on Sunday, July 22nd. The Israeli-led evacuation brought hundreds of rescue workers and their family members to safety, but there are still 300 White Helmets left. These volunteers are calling on the UK, Canada, Jordan, and America to continue their efforts in evacuating the remaining members. The remaining White Helmets were unable to reach the evacuation point in southern Syria because of blocked roads—a result of fighting in the area between Syrian forces and ISIS affiliate Khalid ibn al-Walid. The fighting has intensified in recent days as Syria tries to eradicate remaining ISIS pockets in the southern part of the country.
The White Helmets rescue group operates primarily in opposition-held parts of Syria, acting as an informal emergency services provider in areas devastated by the war. Though there are 300 currently trapped, there remain more than 3,000 members within the country, most of whom are civilian volunteers. These groups travel to the scenes of air strikes and other bombardments to rescue individuals and families trapped in the rubble.
The Syrian government, backed by its ally, Russia, has seized control of much of southwest Syria—the area where an insurgency against President Assad first began in 2011. According to British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, the White Helmets have saved over 115,000 lives during the Syrian conflict. The United Nations estimates that more than 300,000 Syrians have been displaced since the government offensive began in June.
Transferred Syrians and White Helmets will remain in a restricted area in Jordan for the time being. However, the remaining White Helmets are still in extreme danger. They are considered “terrorists” by the regime, but Israel’s help with the evacuation could lead to a new charge: of being collaborators with Israel. There are no current plans to evacuate the remaining White Helmets and civil defense workers in the area.