SYRIA 911: When a coalition of Islamist and Free Syrian Army battalions won control of Idlib city from the Syrian regime over the weekend, the national volunteer-run Syrian Civil Defense entered the provincial capital for the first time since its creation in 2013.
The Syrian Civil Defense—an outfit of over 2,000 volunteers serving as search-and-rescue workers, firefighters and paramedics—is the largest rescue operation in Syria. In the aftermath of the fall of Idlib city to the rebels over the weekend, the Civil Defense is currently working on the ground amidst repeated regime air raids.
“The regime pursues a strategy of collective punishment against civilians after the liberation of any city by intensifying the bombing and violence against residents,” Raed a-Saleh, the head of the Syrian Civil Defense, told Syria Direct on Tuesday.
The group has lots of work to do. Since rebels took control of Idlib, the regime has pounded the city with heavy artillery fire and airstrikes that have already killed dozens of civilians.
Government warplanes bombed Idlib city five times on Monday, Abu Yadzidi, a spokesperson for the Islamist group Ahrar a-Sham in the city, told Syria Direct Tuesday.
Monday’s airstrikes killed at least 32 civilians, while regime surface-to-surface missiles killed another 12, reported the pro-opposition Sham News Network.
Funded by international donors, the Civil Defense volunteers operate in opposition-controlled territories only “because the regime prevents us from entering government-controlled areas,” said a-Saleh.
Photographs published by the organization’s Facebook page show its workers putting out fires, clearing out rubble and assisting wounded and crippled civilians in Idlib city, the second provincial capital to fall from regime hands.
The Civil Defense formed a special Operations Room for Idlib city 24 hours after it fell to the rebels, said a-Saleh.
-March 31, 2015
-Photo courtesy of Civil Defense Idlib