Two more volunteers killed in Idlib airstrikes
The rescue group White Helmets said Russian planes were behind the killing of two of its volunteers earlier Wednesday when their ambulance was struck in the rebel stronghold of Idlib in north-western Syria.
“A thorough examination of evidences, such as eyewitnesses and the identification of the munitions used in the attack … have conclusively proven that the aircraft that committed today’s crime of targeting and killing our volunteers belonged to the Russian Air Frorce,” a statement by the White Helmets issued early Thursday said.
The White Helmets, who work only in rebel-held areas of war-torn Syria, said three other volunteers were also injured in another airstrike in Idlib on Wednesday.
“The first team was heading out after they received a call that warplanes struck Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib,” Ahmed Sheikho, the head of White Helmets in Idlib, told dpa earlier.
On their way, their ambulance suffered a direct hit, killing the two volunteers immediately, he added.
“When the second team moved to rescue our targeted volunteers, their ambulance was also hit, injuring three of them,” Sheikho said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, confirmed the attack and said earlier that Russian warplanes, which support government forces, were behind the strikes.
The aid group condemned what it described as a “deliberate and systematic targeting of civilians and humanitarian workers,” in the strongest possible terms..”
“The international community must ensure that humanitarian groups, civilians and civilian infrastructures are protected from bombing and hold accountable the perpetrators of those attacks,” the statement added.
Last week, three rescue volunteers from the health charity Violet were killed in the same flashpoint province.
Sheikho said 264 volunteers working for the White Helmets have been killed in Syria’s violence since the group was created in 2013.
In late April, forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, supported by Russian air power, started a massive campaign against rebels in the provinces of Hama and Idlib, the last major opposition stronghold in the country.
The escalation has killed 524 civilians and displaced more than 300,000 people, according to the Britain-based observatory.