White Helmets hero killed in Aleppo
Members of the White Helmets remove the body of a man from the rubble (Ameer Alhalbi/AFP)
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When Khaled Omar pulled a two-week old baby from a destroyed building, he wasn’t thinking about much more than saving the child.
The young Syrian was working to save civilians from the carnage of Assad’s barrel bombs with the White Helmets, a group of ordinary men and women turned into first responders by the country’s brutal five-year-long war. After digging in the rubble for hours, Khaled had laid his head down to rest when he heard a baby crying. He immediately sprung up, working in precarious conditions before pulling the little boy, crying but miraculously alive, from the rubble.
It was all in a day’s work for the team, but the rescue was caught on camera and quickly went viral. Khaled, describing the ordeal, was suddenly a face of the suffering wrought by Assad’s barrel bombs and the courage of those fighting to save lives in the face of it.
Two years later, however, the White Helmets have announced that Khaled has been killed in Aleppo as he worked to rescue fellow Syrians.
In an announcement on Facebook Thursday night, the White Helmets announced that their colleague has been “martyred” in the city. “Before the revolution, Khaled was a painter and decorator. Today, like so many others, he died a hero,” they said.
“Khaled was one of the earliest volunteers of the White Helmets, since joining he has responded to thousands of attacks --- and he made the same choice thousands of times --- to run towards bombs knowing he could be killed.”
The video showing Khaled’s rescue of the “Miracle Baby” was shared over 900,000 times on YouTube – and thousands have expressed their sadness at his death.
“This is a life,” Khaled said in the video which spread around the world. “One has to be delicate in dealing with a life.”
Some 2,900 Syrians, from all walks of life, now volunteer in the Syrian Civil Defence, or White Helmets, which carries out search and rescue and humanitarian response for civilians affected by the country’s ongoing civil war. It’s mandated to be an impartial and nonpartisan organisation, although it primarily operates in rebel-controlled areas.
Despite a Russian ceasefire pledge, fighting is ongoing and relentless in Aleppo, with a chlorine gas attack on civilian areas reported earlier this week.