The White Helmets: Fighting for life in Syria’s vicious civil war

A great city that once held more than two million people is on the edge of surrender after five years of siege and starvation. Aleppo was the center of the rebellion against the Syrian dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad. When our story first aired in December, Assad and his Russian ally, intensified their air strikes against Aleppo’s dense neighborhoods. For civilians, under this bombardment, the greatest fear is to be buried alive — to suffocate or bleed to death in the rubble of their own home. Their only hope is the Syrian Civil Defense, a self-appointed, all Syrian, volunteer force of rescue workers who call themselves the White Helmets.

To support the White Helmets, visit their website

Volunteers from the White Helmets

CBS News

The airstrikes, day and night, obliterate apartments and shatter the nerves. Often, the bombs are not aimed at military targets — they’re not aimed at all — just a barrel of shrapnel and TNT, heaved from a helicopter, onto any neighborhood the Assad dictatorship does not control.

Rami Jarrah: It’s to terrorize people in this area. It’s to tell these people that, “You’re not welcome here and we want you out.”

Rami Jarrah is a Syrian reporter who’s followed the White Helmets from their makeshift beginnings to today’s trained force of 3,000 rescue workers. 

Rami Jarrah: They provide some sort of security or safety or some sort of hope to civilians that live in this area that even if you are attacked, even if your building comes down, there is someone that’s going to come and save you.

Scott Pelley: You are not alone.

Rami Jarrah: You’re not alone, yes.

This little boy was alone and nearly invisible when the White Helmets happened to spot just his hair in the pulverized concrete of his home. Bare hands were in a race with suffocation.

Rami Jarrah: I think for them it’s luck. It’s that– that they dig any rubble that they see to get those people out. They…

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