As Russian airstrikes continued to pound targets across Syria on Sunday, harrowing video footage emerged of the Syrian Civil Defense — a group of volunteer civilian rescuers known as White Helmets — responding to bombing sites in Idlib province.
One video shows several White Helmets picking up a fellow rescuer who appears to have a severe injury to his leg. The men frantically work to load their fallen comrade into the back of a pickup truck, and they later discover the gruesome remains of another White Helmet who was apparently killed during the bombing.
In another video, described as being shot in a village southwest of Idlib, White Helmets picking through the rubble of a bombing site in search of survivors are forced to flee when another alleged Russian airstrike hits nearby, emitting a cloud of dust and debris.
The attacks came after Russia escalated a military intervention that it launched Wednesday with the stated intention of weakening the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, released a statement on Thursday that said up to 30 civilians were killed in just the first day of the bombing campaign. The organization also stated that Russian warplanes struck on Sunday in Homs, in the western part of the country near the border with Lebanon, and in neighboring Hama province.
The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that its planes have flown 20 missions in Syria and struck 10 IS targets in the past 24 hours, saying the aerial campaign has "disrupted" the militant group's activities, and "seriously damaged" its infrastructure.
Though Moscow insists the airstrikes are aimed at weakening IS, the militant group has little to no presence in some of the areas that have been bombed. Western powers have claimed that the Kremlin's true aim is to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his battle against insurgent groups.
Some of the rebel groups around Talbiseh, a town in western Syria that was bombed on Sunday, operate under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army, and they have received military support from both Western and Gulf Arab states that oppose Assad. One Talbiseh resident told Reuters that the bodies of at least five civilians bodies were recovered from bombing sites in the city.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the airstrikes have hit targets in the Idlib and Raqqa provinces, including a terrorist training camp and an explosives factory, and also destroyed three ammunition stores and four IS command centers.
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