In video: Lifesaving efforts in war-torn Aleppo


Civilians amid the ruins of buildings after air strike by pro-regime forces. File photo

ARA News

Kiel, Germany On February 17, 2013, a ballistic missile fell on Jabal Bedro neighbourhood in Aleppo, north of Syria, announcing a new era of the Syrian war where more destructive weapons meant to be used.

Despite the late militarization comparing to other provinces, Aleppo was shelled by all kinds of weapons starting from Stalin organs to container and barrel bombs by the Syrian pro-regime forces.

Aleppo’s massive destruction and huge number of casualties pushed some volunteers to establish a civil defence institution “to save victims of random-shelling and search for survivals under debris,” volunteer Mohammed told ARA News.

The institution functions in the opposition-held part of Aleppo province where a group of volunteers, 350 members in the city and its environs, gathered with their casual clothes and simple tools, such as spades and hoes, to save people’s lives. With time and intensive shelling, the group became more organized and experienced.

Some volunteers undertook 10-day workshops in Turkey, sponsored by a relief and rescue British organization, where they received training on searching and rescuing survivals, as well as providing first aid.

Speaking to ARA News, Yazan Hussein, one of Hanano branch volunteers of the Civil Defence, said: “Those workshops are not sufficient, as barrel bombs in Aleppo is totally different from other global disasters civil defence teams are trained on.”

“We are unable to save more people; we need more workers and heavy equipment as well as aerial pads and thermal detectors to detect bodies under debris. However, the Friends of Syria international group refused to provide our institution with these detectors for fear of confiscating them by extremist groups.”

Mohammed, another member of the Civil Defence in Aleppo, told ARA News one of the stories he faced once: “Members of a family from Aleppo were under debris in a destroyed building for two days until activists collected 300 thousands Syrian Pounds (2000 USD) via campaigns on social media to repair one of the only two broken-down bulldozers in the liberated (opposition-held) part of Aleppo and lift the debris.”

“We were able to save that family in al-Myasar neighbourhood among many families that we heard their voices for hours until they died under the weight of fallen walls and ceilings without being able to save them,” Mohammed said.

According to Mohammed, Aleppo is under systematic destruction. “So we established three civil defence branches; Hanano, Bab al-Nayrab and al-Ansari branches. There are four other centers in Aleppo environs.”

On 22 June 2013, Khalid Hajo, head of the Civil Defence team in Aleppo city called for more support to establish wireless tower at Hanano neighbourhood, following targeting the team members by a war craft while they were providing residents with water.”

Three volunteers were injured and a fire engine was damaged as the communication tower was ineffective.

Searching and rescuing people is not the only responsibility of the Civil Defence teams in Aleppo. Moreover, they evacuate semi-destroyed buildings from civilians and moving them to safer areas.

Fifteen months following its establishment, members of the Civil Defence institution work today as volunteers with “the free” Aleppo provincial council. They hope to be considered as employees to receive fixed salaries to support their families, especially after the humanitarian assistance they provided to hundreds of civilians in the Aleppo’s devastated areas.


Reporting by: Rustom Osse

Source: ARA News

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