Un­der bombs, Syria res­cuers forced to save their own

Kuwait Times - - International -

MEDEIRA: For years, Samir Salim and his three broth­ers res­cued neigh­bours and rel­a­tives pinned un­der­ground after bom­bard­ment on Syria’s rebel-held Eastern Ghouta. But last week, they could not save their own mother. Crouched atop the rub­ble of their home in the town of Medeira, 45-year-old Salim pinches hot tears out of his eyes with dusty, blis­tered hands. “It was a very dif­fi­cult po­si­tion to be in. It hurts to think that she was a mother of four res­cue work­ers, and none of us could save her,” he tells AFP. “My mother was so proud of us, and of our work.” Ev­ery day since 2013, Salim and his sib­lings have chased air strikes on Eastern Ghouta as part of the White Hel­mets res­cue force. They spend hours search­ing for and ex­tract­ing res­i­dents of the rebel en­clave near Da­m­as­cus from un­der blocks of rub­ble-dead or alive. But last Thurs­day was dif­fer­ent. Among the dozens of vic­tims of Syr­ian gov­ern­ment strikes that day was Salim’s 80-year-old mother. Re­turn­ing to the pile of cin­derblocks and con­crete that was once their home, Salim re­watches the shaky video footage he cap­tured that day.In it, his mother ap­pears in a black head­scarf, her blood­ied and mo­tion­less body pressed un­der­neath a col­lapsed wall. Salim is cry­ing. “I save peo­ple, mum, but I can’t save you. What do I do, mum? May your soul rest in peace.”

Eastern Ghouta, the last rebel bas­tion on the cap­i­tal’s doorstep, is home to around 400,000 be­sieged Syr­i­ans. Last week, Syr­ian war­planes and ar­tillery con­ducted an in­tense five-day cam­paign there that left around 250 civil­ians dead and triple that num­ber wounded. Res­cue work­ers were over­whelmed, rush­ing from the site of one air strike to an­other with lit­tle equip­ment and dwin­dling fuel sup­plies. Salim and his unit were en route to a col­lapsed build­ing in Mesraba, a nearby town, when they heard an­other air strike hit Medeira.

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