By Kate Buck
The first female volunteer in the White Helmets to be killed has died during a ‘targeted’ bombing of her home in Syria. Sobhiya Alsa’ad, 23, who volunteered with the Syria Civil Defence – known as the White Helmets – reportedly died when her house was hit in an air strike just south of Idlib.
It is thought that other members of her family were also killed during the attack. The White Helmets tweeted: ‘We are saddened of the news that “Sobhiya Alsa’ad” was killed along with several members of her family after aerial bombardment targeted their house in Kafarsgana south of Idlib. ‘She’s the first female White Helmet volunteer to be killed. Her service will never be forgotten.’
Supporters commenting on the tweet said they were ‘heartbroken’ to hear of her death, and called her a ‘hero’. One said: ‘I am so sorry for your loss. Sobhiya must have been a very brave and kind soul. May her memory be blessed forever.’ Today, the group also announced the death of their former Director in Ghouta, Mohammad al Masarwa, who previously described the situation in Eastern Ghouta as ‘Hell on Earth.’ He died in Douma alongside at least 19 civilians, four of them children. Two years ago, he wrote about his daily life as a civil defender. He said: ‘I myself have been injured several times, one time was nearly fatal. But I promised myself that I would complete this mission no matter what came my way.
‘One of the hardest situations I’ve faced was the chemical attack on Eastern Ghouta in August 2013. We mobilized our staff for a full 72 hours. Our job was to rescue civilians and evacuate them and the dead to our base in Douma. ‘I still remember that day, Every time we entered houses we saw families affected by poison from the attack. ‘It was really painful seeing infants children and babies who died in such a tragic way.’ The White Helmets were formed in 2013 and operate in Syria and Turkey as a search and rescue team to try and save people trapped in rubble left behind by devastating bombings.
Their motto is a phrase from the Koran, ‘To save one life is to save all of humanity’. Since their creation, it has been estimated that they have saved over 60,000 lives. But it has come at a cost, more than 200 hundred of the volunteers are believed to have been killed. The group was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2016. In Eastern Ghouta, more than 1,000 people are thought to have been killed in the last 20 days as government troops and allied militia attack the rebel-held city.