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Gunmen kill 7 White Helmets volunteers in Syria
13 August 2017, 11:19 | Erica Roy
Seven White Helmets members shot dead in northwest Syria
The attack occurred in the city of Sarmin in Idlib province, which last month came mostly under the control of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, a coalition of Salafi jihadist groups that includes Fateh al-Sham.
News of the deaths was confirmed via the rescue service's Twitter feed.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the seven were murdered in the wake of being shot in the head, including that the killings were found when volunteers from the White Helmets landed to begin a move and found the assemblages of their associates. "It might also be an attack aimed to harm the image of the Nusra Front and to show that Idlib is not safe", said Rami Abdurrahman who heads the Observatory.
The organization stresses its neutrality and not supporting ay political or armed group - it receives funds from UK, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Japan and the US.
Some reports have claimed one of the men killed in Saturday's attack is a volunteer who featured in one of the group's most moving rescues.
Popularly known as White Helmets, the Syrian Civil Defense group is active in opposition-held areas in Syria, which has been locked in a devastating civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
They have since gained widespread global renown for their daring rescues, with footage often taken and circulated on social media.
No party claimed responsibility for the operation but Abu Ali Abdulwahab from the Army of Islam said that ISIS and its allies are most probably behind this crime - in his statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, he noted that Sarmin was the capital of ISIS when the extremist group was present in Idlib.
Their detractors, including President Bashar al-Assad's government and his ally Russian Federation, accuse them of being tools of their global donors.
Critics also accuse them of harbouring rebel fighters, including Islamist militants, in their ranks. The footage was widely circulated on social media and was shown on news channels all over the world.
According to unverified statistics compiled by the White Helmets, volunteer rescuers have saved more than 85,000 civilians since the group's inception. They are often the first on the scene after bombings to help those injured and pull survivors from the rubble.
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