This daring rescue shows international cooperation isn't dead after all

In the dead of night and with help from countries including the United States, Canada, Jordan, Israel and the United ...

Posted: Jul 25, 2018 9:20 AM
Updated: Jul 25, 2018 9:20 AM

In the dead of night and with help from countries including the United States, Canada, Jordan, Israel and the United Kingdom, the rescuers got rescued themselves. Almost immediately, the Syrian regime and its Russian backers criticized the operation. And the White Helmets.

But no amount of online targeting from the Syrian regime or its Russian backers can change the fact that these ordinary people from a whole slew of backgrounds came together as the White Helmets to rescue civilians in the midst of war - for years and at great risk to themselves. The White Helmets deserved rescue.

Indeed, the extraction of more than 400 Syrian Civil Defense members -- known as White Helmets -- from Syria this week as the Syrian regime neared their location was a rare reminder that countries can indeed work together effectively to protect people who have worked to help and to save others. That the Syrian regime called their rescue a "criminal operation" should surprise few and confuse even fewer.

The reason they earned the label is twofold: for the last half-decade, not only did they help rescue people in the aftermath of attacks by the Syrian regime, but they also documented what was happening on the ground, sharing what they saw with local and international organizations and chronicling events such as the April 2017 chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun.

"While the Syrian-Russian military coalition conducted indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations in areas like Eastern Ghouta, Idlib and now, Daraa and Quneitra, the White Helmets were pulling the injured from under rubble, burying the dead, putting out fires, and conducting countless search and rescue operations," noted Human Rights Watch. "They bore witness to many of the atrocities that characterized the conflict."

The White Helmets, formed in late 2012 and early 2013, are a volunteer force that has grown from a few dozen to several thousand members from multiple walks of life, from blacksmiths to barbers. Some 200 members of the group have been killed in the process of daring to go toward danger rather than away from it, running to try to rescue civilians in the immediate aftermath of aerial attacks.

As CNN's Hala Gorani noted, "Some of the defining images of the civil war, of bloodied bodies covered head to toe in concrete dust -- yet miraculously alive --- have come from the very people who have saved them."

For this work bearing witness -- captured in a Netflix documentary and in international media -- they were called "terrorists" by the Syrian government. And they bore the brunt of Russian propaganda starting in 2015 as the Russians ratcheted up their efforts inside Syria to protect and advance the interests of the Syrian regime by air and on the ground.

The White Helmets were accused of being linked to al Qaeda. Called "crisis actors." Accused of staging "fake attacks." And trolled mercilessly online.

The Guardian last December called these efforts to discredit the White Helmets an "extraordinary disinformation campaign" as it noted researchers "found evidence of a targeted Russian influence campaign against the White Helmets." One computer science professor at Indiana University, Fil Menczer, developed a tool called Hoaxy to chart the spread of misinformation online. Searching for "White Helmets" reveals a handful of sources generated hundreds of stories about the organization. "It's like a factory," he told the paper.

Indeed, in the immediate aftermath of the rescue of the search-and-rescuers, the Russian Embassy in Israel tweeted, "July 22 West evacuated #WhiteHelmets pseudo-humanitarians via #Israel. These militants acted exclusively in areas controlled by Islamic radicals,concocted #fakenews, staged chemical provocations like in #EasternGhouta. They flee #Syria and reveal who they are."

Yes. They revealed who they are: regular people who regularly devoted themselves to clearing others out from under rubble. People whose work led to the creation of an unusual international alliance to get them out of danger. And people whose daring rescue showed once more the power of something we haven't seen in a while: just how much good is possible when countries work together.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 319948

Reported Deaths: 7371
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22285267
Hinds20719421
Harrison18431317
Rankin13901282
Jackson13718248
Madison10263224
Lee10059176
Jones8467167
Forrest7832153
Lauderdale7261242
Lowndes6517150
Lamar635188
Lafayette6313121
Washington5425137
Bolivar4841133
Panola4670110
Oktibbeha466198
Pearl River4605147
Marshall4574105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425873
Monroe4157135
Union415777
Neshoba4063179
Lincoln4008112
Hancock386987
Leflore3515125
Tate342486
Sunflower339491
Pike3371111
Alcorn327272
Scott320374
Yazoo314171
Adams308086
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma298784
Simpson298589
Tippah291968
Prentiss284161
Leake272074
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264642
Grenada264087
George252251
Newton248663
Tishomingo231868
Winston230181
Jasper222148
Attala215073
Chickasaw210559
Holmes190474
Stone188433
Clay187954
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174132
Yalobusha167840
Smith164134
Walthall135347
Greene131834
Lawrence131124
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127238
Amite126242
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108234
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96629
Franklin85023
Quitman82216
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 548657

Reported Deaths: 11306
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810031566
Mobile42105831
Madison35690525
Tuscaloosa26173458
Shelby25607254
Montgomery25081614
Baldwin21868314
Lee16278176
Calhoun14719327
Morgan14629285
Etowah14175364
Marshall12453230
Houston10781287
Elmore10293214
Limestone10179157
St. Clair10162251
Cullman9952201
Lauderdale9603250
DeKalb8972190
Talladega8460184
Walker7338280
Autauga7241113
Blount6945139
Jackson6932113
Colbert6413140
Coffee5635127
Dale4928116
Russell454841
Chilton4476116
Franklin431382
Covington4275122
Tallapoosa4138155
Escambia401680
Chambers3728124
Dallas3607158
Clarke353061
Marion3240107
Pike314378
Lawrence3133100
Winston283472
Bibb268564
Geneva257981
Marengo250565
Pickens236962
Barbour234559
Hale227278
Butler224271
Fayette218862
Henry194543
Randolph187544
Cherokee187345
Monroe180041
Washington170539
Macon163051
Clay160059
Crenshaw155957
Cleburne153444
Lamar146837
Lowndes142254
Wilcox126930
Bullock124342
Conecuh113630
Coosa111729
Perry108626
Sumter105732
Greene93634
Choctaw62125
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