Journey To Aleppo Part II: The Syria Civil Defense & Aleppo Medical Association Are Real Syrians Helping Real Syrians

Vanessa Beeley meets with members of the Syria Civil Defense and the Aleppo Medical Association, who shed more light on the mainstream media lies distorting the public’s perception of what’s really happening in Syria.

Aleppo Medical Association

A bombed-out building that’s been converted into a terrorist sniper tower with barrels and sandbags in Sheikh Maqsoud, the Kurdish-held area in northern Aleppo

Editor’s Note: This article is the second in a two-part series of one Western journalist’s journey to Aleppo, a city ravaged by an insurgency supported by the United States, NATO member states, and their allies in the Gulf states and Israel.
In Part I, Vanessa Beeley lays out the mainstream narrative on Syria, revealing a neoconservative agenda promoted by NATO-funded NGOs. These NGOs paint the destruction of the historic city as being caused by the Syrian government under Syrian President Bashar Assad, not the violent armed insurgents which receive arms, funding and training from Western governments and their allies in the Gulf and Israel.
Part II focuses on the suffering and resilience she encountered among the Syrian people in western Aleppo, an area that’s been under siege by the Nusra Front and other “moderate rebel” groups and “opposition forces” for the last four years.

ALEPPO, Syria — From the town of Bani Zaid in northern Aleppo, we made our way to the Aleppo Medical Association in the al-Azizia district of Aleppo.

We met with Dr. Zahar Buttal, the director, and Dr. Bassem Hayak, who heads the psychological and malnutrition trauma units which, among their many services, treat civilians who manage to flee terrorist-held eastern Aleppo into the government-held western Aleppo via the humanitarian corridors established by Russian and Syrian authorities.

Dr. Zahar Buttal, director of the Aleppo Medical Association, standing next to photos of previous directors at the Aleppo Medical Association building. (Photo by Vanessa Beeley)

More than 2,000 civilians–mostly women and children–had been received not long prior to our visit, Dr. Hayak said. They flooded into western Aleppo via the humanitarian corridors that were opened on July 29, the day after Syrian President Bashar Assad issued the amnesty decree for all armed factions embedded throughout eastern Aleppo.

Dr. Hayak’s team stationed medical groups at the exits of the humanitarian corridors to receive civilians before sending them to designated houses for medical evaluations. Initially, three humanitarian corridors were in operation, with four others to be opened at a later date.

He also said that only three main hospitals exist in eastern Aleppo: Al-Daqqaq, Al-Zahraa, and the Omar bin Abdulaziz Hospital, founded and built by the Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun and various other charities.

This runs counter to the NATO-aligned media and humanitarian NGO complex narrative, which gives the impression that there are at least ten hospitals in eastern Aleppo without differentiating between the facilities or the services they provide and to whom. Western media infers that those being targeted are civilians, not members of the Nusra Front and other foreign-funded terrorist brigades, and that all these “civilians” are being mercilessly bombed by Russian and Syrian air strikes.

All three main hospitals are fully occupied by the various armed insurgencies led by the Nusra Front, according to Dr. Hayak, who said they use the top floors as sniper towers. Terrorists–the various groups of so-called “moderate rebels” and “opposition forces” backed by the United States, NATO member states, their Gulf State allies and Israel–take priority over civilians, and only surgical intervention is now carried out in the three hospitals in eastern Aleppo. The armed insurgents refuse to allow U.N. agencies inside these facilities, according to Dr. Hayak.

In addition to the three main hospitals, there are seven other, less well-equipped private health clinics also under terrorist control, according to Dr. Hayak.

One of the primary producers of propaganda regarding the hospitals being targeted in eastern Aleppo is Doctors Without Borders, the international aid NGO often referred to by its French acronym, MSF. MSF laid claim to al-Quds Hospital, which was allegedly targeted on April 27 by a variety of missiles, according to conflicting reports from Pablo Marco, the NGO’s Middle East operations manager.

In an open letter to MSF dated May 4, Rick Sterling, a geopolitical analyst and writer, pointed out these glaring discrepancies and a number of other flagrant anomalies in the MSF reports:

“There are many discrepancies in reports about the April 27 attack on Al Quds Hospital. MSF Middle East Operations Manager Pablo Marco, interviewed the next day on CNN and PBS Newshour, said ‘there were two barrel bombs that fell close to the hospital …. then the third barrel bomb fell in the entrance of the hospital’. Barrel bombs are only delivered by helicopters. In contrast, your press release the same day says ‘the hospital was destroyed by at least one airstrike which directly hit the building, reducing it to rubble.’ ACBC report continued this version, claiming ‘An MSF-supported hospital in the northern Syria city of Aleppo is now a pile of rubble. Airstrikes brought down the building on Wednesday.’”

Dr. Nabil Antaki, a gastroenterologist based in western Aleppo, also questioned the objectivity of the MSF reports and the Western media narrative. In a statement to Arret sur Info (my translation can be found here) on May 1, he said:

“For three days now, these media outlets have been accusing the ‘Assad regime’ of bombing an MSF hospital [Medecins sans Frontieres] to the east of Aleppo and of killing the last paediatrician in the city. This demonstrates that, for these media, the only priority is this pocket of the city where terrorists are embedded.

The three quarters of Aleppo under Syrian Government control where numerous paediatricians are practicing is of no consequence for this media.”

Dr. Hayak of the Aleppo Medical Association estimated that 200,000 to 220,000 people are living in eastern Aleppo, including 50,000 members of the armed insurgencies and their families. The area’s civilian population has been driven from their homes, and the majority are living without shelter or work, fearing for their lives if they try to escape or protest the occupation of terrorist-held eastern Aleppo. Young men, in particular, are either co-opted into the terrorist ranks or killed if they try to leave even via the humanitarian corridors.

During our talk, I filmed Dr. Hayak when I asked him about the the White Helmets, a group which claims to operate as first responders in terrorist-held eastern Aleppo.

Dr. Hayak described how none of his relatives or family friends in eastern Aleppo know of this organization which is embedded only in the Nusra Front strongholds in Aleppo, Idlib and other governorates across Syria. According to their own promotional literature and videos, the White Helmets operate extensively in eastern Aleppo, “saving all humanity when the bombs fall.” So it is revealing, that according to Dr. Hayak, they are virtually unknown to the civilians and official aid organizations, like the U.N., World Health Organization, and Red Crescent, living or working in eastern Aleppo.

During this interview, Dr. Hayak also stated that the civilians in eastern Aleppo are held hostage by the Nusra Front. Should anyone attempt to leave for Syrian government-held western Aleppo, their families are threatened with execution. He cited the case of his cousin, a surgeon, who is unable to leave to work in western Aleppo because her family would be killed. She is forced to continue working for the Nusra Front-occupied hospitals, mostly treating terrorists.

Watch Vanessa Beeley’s interview with Dr. Bassem Hayak:


One Aleppo resident told Ruptly in July:

“The government gave the opportunity for civilians to come here, but the rebels are not letting them; they are shooting at them. This is not acceptable. The ‘rebels’ should let the civilians come here to avoid bloodshed. Those are our relatives, our people. If the civilians come here we can save the babies and the women. If the rebels want to fight they can fight, why include the civilians?”

On Sept. 19, however, videos emerged of civilians fleeing areas in Aleppo held by the Nusra Front via humanitarian corridors. Even as they rush to safety, shielded by Syrian Arab Army soldiers, the civilians are fired upon by the Western-backed “moderate rebels” and “opposition forces.”

Watch “Syria: Aleppo residents flee fighting through humanitarian corridors” from Ruptly TV:


‘Those who called themselves MSF were standing side by side with the terrorists’

Over the course of several meetings with Syria’s Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun in July and August, the Grand Mufti emphasized that the hospitals, including his own project, the Omar bin Abdulaziz Hospital, were occupied by terrorists.

The Grand Mufti has been a fierce advocate of the Syrian secular state and an outspoken critic of NATO’s dirty war on Syria. According to the Grand Mufti and to the majority of Syrians I met during my four weeks in Syria, it is a war that’s been fomented along sectarian lines that never existed prior to this externally imposed crisis.

Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun during a meeting with Vanessa Beeley on Aug. 24.  (Photo by Vanessa Beeley)

During one of our talks, the Grand Mufti said:

“This association [the Grand Mufti’s charity] for raising standards has been licensed in Syria since 1955. I have built that hospital with my money and with donations from people who have worked with us, starting from 1985. That hospital started operating in 1992, and we used to treat the poor people from the neighborhood. The hospital is located in a poor area, and we used to treat more than 400 people per day for free. The hospital had nine dialysis machines. When the terrorists came they drove out the doctors, killed three nurses, and killed more than 10 patients inside the hospital before taking over the hospital.

They then claimed that MSF is the one operating the hospital, but in that hospital they receive only terrorists, no civilians who remain in the neighborhood. There was a group of terrorists standing guard at the front door of hospital, they have not allowed the maternity department to operate since 2013. There were 12 premature baby incubators–all stolen. They kept the hospital like a field hospital to treat terrorists. That is the hospital [we] built with our own hands and now they lie and say it’s their hospital.

Those who call themselves MSF were standing side by side with the terrorists to kill our children and to requisition charity hospitals, schools and associations. That is what was done in Aleppo.”

Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun. (Photo by Vanessa Beeley)

Propaganda merchants silent on terrorist attacks on western Aleppo

During our meeting on Aug. 15, Dr. Zahar Buttal informed us that, from Aug. 1 to to 14, 143 civilians, including 54 children and 23 women, had been murdered by terrorist missile attacks in western Aleppo. The routinely worst hit areas are shown on the map below; Aziziya, where we stayed in during our visit, was also regularly targeted by terrorist mortar fire and explosive ammunition.

Map showing the areas of western Aleppo hit hardest by the Nusra Front and other terror groups’ “hell cannon” mortar fire. (Screenshot provided by Vanessa Beeley)

During our meeting with the Aleppo Medical Association, news came in of two armored vehicles packed with explosives driving into the Zahraa residential area of northern Aleppo.

Perhaps coincidentally, Riyadh-educated Sheikh Abdallah al-Muhaysini, chief of the Nusra Front, had been issuing one of his regular calls for suicide bomber volunteers just two days prior to our visit. This time, the call had gone out meters away from Aleppo’s ancient citadel walls.

That call was apparently heeded by the two men who drove armored vehicles packed with enough explosives to massacre hundreds of civilians. Dr. Hayak explained that the trucks had bulletproof windscreens that the drivers would not have been able to see out of, so they were guided into their target by radio instructions.

However, the trucks were successfully intercepted by airstrikes that destroyed them before they could complete their deadly mission. No civilian casualties were reported, but it was yet another Western-backed attack by “moderate rebels” and “opposition forces” not reported in Western media.


‘We are disgusted by these sanctions’

An Aug. 31 statement from the Syrian American Council made the extraordinary claim that because Syrian blood banks have historically been run by the country’s defense ministry, the blood stored in those banks is being given to soldiers as a priority over civilians. That statement reads:

“SAC wishes to note that even payments to seemingly innocuous regime-linked sources can be rerouted to Assad’s killing machine. For example, the UN has made millions of dollars in payments to Assad’s fuel supplier, which also fuels the warplanes bombing Syrian civilians; to Assad’s Agriculture Ministry, which also feeds the regime troops storming Syrian cities and towns; and to Assad’s blood bank, despite ‘concrete concerns’ that the blood would be reserved for regime troops. SAC has received countless reports over the years of UN aid in fact being used by Assad soldiers.”

The statement effectively calls upon the United States to further perpetuate the suffering of the Syrian people — people who are already being collectively punished by the crippling U.S. and EU sanctions that affect all sectors of civilian life, including health, agriculture, and education.

Speaking to Be Curious TV in May (my translation can be found here), Dr. Nabil Antaki said:

“We are disgusted by these sanctions because these sanctions and these embargoes have not been implemented against the Syrian government but against the Syrian people, all the Syrian people. For example, me personally, as person x, living in Syria, does not have the right to conduct the smallest transaction. If I wanted to send $1,000 to my children, I am unable to do so. I can neither import or export anything. This is crippling. I am a doctor, I wanted to replace one part of a piece of medical equipment.  Normally this would take one week; it took a year and a half to get hold of the part because we couldn’t import it from Japan, as it was a multinational company.

So these sanctions penalize the Syrian people and at a certain moment the EU lifted the sanctions but only for the people living in the terrorist-controlled zones. Those people living in areas under the control of the Syrian state could do nothing. Contrary to their claims, this does not penalize the ‘regime,’ it punishes the Syrian people.”

Maria Saadeh, a member of the Syrian parliament, in Damascus on Aug 22. (Photo by Vanessa Beeley)

In March 2015, a member of the Syrian parliament, Maria Saadeh, addressed the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, presenting a paper titled, “Unilateral Economic Sanctions against Syria and Terrorism: Two sides of the same coin.”

In June 2016, Saadeh addressed the UN again. Speaking at the Institute of Democracy and Co-operation’s side event at the UNHRC’s session in Geneva, she said:

“Economic sanctions have been applied to punish the Syrian regime. Since 2011, member states of the UN have undertaken collective punitive action against the Syrian people. In March 2015, I presented here at the Human Rights Council a document entitled ‘economic terrorism’ which compared the results of terrorist organisations in Syria with the effects of coercive measures taken under the label of ‘economic sanctions.’

These sanctions violate international law in the same way as terrorism does. Their results and effects are the same; the aim in both cases is to attack Syrian society and to violate human rights, especially the right to life.  

As a result of the sanctions, unemployment has risen from 8.6% in 2010 to 50% in 2014; poverty reached 75% in 2013 where it was 9% in 2010; the number of children in primary education has fallen to 50%; the same number of hospitals and factories have closed as a result of the sanctions as as a result of terrorism. In the same paper, I also showed the relations between the states applying the sanctions and the terrorist organisations they support. I also discuss the relationship between them in despoiling Syria of its natural, economic and cultural resources.”


Giving blood in Aleppo

While we were in western Aleppo, we decided to give blood, which seemed particularly critical after just hearing about the increasing numbers of civilians maimed and mutilated by terrorist missiles, explosive bullets and mortars, and gas attacks.

Eva Bartlett and Vanessa Beeley giving blood in Aleppo on Aug. 15, 2016. (Photo provided by Vanessa Beeley)

The blood banks in Syria rely on daily donations to keep hospitals stocked with enough blood to cope with the increase in terrorist rockets against civilian areas in government-held areas of western Aleppo and across Syria.

We were told that a few days before we arrived in Aleppo, a group of 250 teachers had come in to donate blood. Just after we finished, a young man entered to give blood for his brother who had been critically injured in a recent “moderate rebel” shelling attack. Like so many others, the injured brother was hospitalized and required a daily blood transfusion to survive.

A friend from Aleppo later told me that he had requested that his blood be given to the Syrian Arab Army as his recognition of their bravery in defending Aleppo. He said he was told unequivocally that the blood bank would not agree to that. Blood would be given to those who need it most urgently, blood bank workers said, adding that there would be no prioritizing.

Like so many aspects of Syrian life, the blood storage units have been adversely affected by U.S. and EU sanctions. In Aleppo they ran out of plastic blood storage bags and they have had to improvise an alternate storage system–one of the innumerable ways Syrians have adapted to a crisis with resourcefulness and invention.

In light of what we heard and witnessed in the Aleppo blood bank, the Syrian American Council’s statement is another example of the propaganda that ensures the misery and suffering of the Syrian people has no end until the neocolonial objectives of the United States, European Union, and NATO members are achieved.


The White Helmets are not the Syria Civil Defense

One of the main reasons that I stayed in Syria for four weeks, was to continue a long-running investigation into the White Helmets. This group is funded and equipped by the United States, United Kingdom, EU and Japan. The White Helmets are trained by former British military,mercenary, James Le Mesurier, and are often referred to as the “Syrian Civil Defense.”

The alleged first responder group is embedded exclusively in areas held by terrorist groups like the Nusra Front and Daesh (an Arabic acronym for the terrorist group known in the West as ISIS or ISIL).

The White Helmets paint a picture of humanitarian catastrophe in western Aleppo to facilitate NATO’s goal of generating public support for a no-fly zone and more sanctions against Syria. Crimes committed by the Nusra Front and the myriad terrorist groups in Aleppo are portrayed as those of the Syrian government and armed forces.

The White Helmets were established in 2013, and despite making claims of impartiality and independence, they have received over $50 million in funding from the United States and United Kingdom alone.

Infographic produced by UK Column for Vanessa Beeley showing the James Le Mesurier & White Helmet’s deep state connections.

However, an updated entry in Wikipedia demonstrates clearly, the multi-million dollar funding tap that has been turned on for this US & NATO shadow state construct.  This phony first responder unit is nothing more than a NATO state and US funded invention being deployed alongside US & NATO funded & armed terrorist brigades inside Syria. They exist to produce the regime change, No Fly Zone,  justifying propaganda and to support an army of mercenaries and genetically modified terrorists.

“SCD is supported by the aid agencies of a number of external donor governments. Initially the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office was the largest single source of funding through the newly constructed aid group, Mayday Rescue, then based in Istanbul though headquartered in the Netherlands.[26] Now funders include the Danish government, the German government, [24] the Japan International Cooperation Agency,[23] United States Agency for International Development (USAID),[27] the United Kingdom Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF),[28] and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[29]USAID now appears to be the largest donor, having contributed at least $23 million since 2013”

Read Saleh left, the head of the civil defense units in the northern city of Idlib, and Farouk al-Habib, right, a media campaigner for the White Helmets, sit on a panel to draw attention to their work in Syria in midtown New York, September, 2014.

At an April 27 press briefing, Mark Toner, a State Department deputy spokesman, publicly admitted that the State Department funded this outreach operation with $23 million via USAID. About a week before that briefing, however, the leader of the group, Raed Saleh, was denied entry to the United States when he arrived on a flight from Istanbul to Washington in April.

After Toner relayed the United States’ condemnation of a recent aerial attack on a station of the “Syrian Civil Defense,” one journalist at the press briefing asked Toner: “You’re saying that basically he is suspect but his group is not?” To which Toner replied that the State Department is “not condemning the group in any way whatsoever.”

In a disturbing development that received little media coverage, Saleh, who had been deported for unexplained reasons in April, was allowed to enter the United States this month. On Sept. 22, he reportedly accompanied the Dutch Mission to the United Nations in New York.


That same day, Secretary of State John Kerry tweeted his support for the White Helmets, a group which already enjoys plenty of financial and training support from the United States, United Kingdom and European Union.


This is not the first time the United States has entertained suspect or questionable individuals with “extremist connections.” In December 2015, Labib al-Nahhas, the self-proclaimed “chief of Foreign Political Relations at Ahrar al-Sham,” was allowed entry into the United States.

The United States protects Ahrar al-Sham’s ties to both Daesh and al-Qaida from being exposed, thus enabling the group to carry out its policy of mass murder and ethnic cleansing of minorities inside Syria. It’s able to do so not just unhindered, but with the tacit approval of the U.S. government.

In a May 2016 report for McClatchy, Hannah Allam wrote:

“A senior figure from a Syrian rebel group with links to al Qaida was allowed into the United States for a brief visit, raising questions about how much the Obama administration will compromise in the search for partners in the conflict.”  

I’ve amassed a body of work, “Who are Syria’s White Helmets?,” which exposes the White Helmets, a group Toner also refers to as the “Syrian Civil Defense,” as sectarian fifth columnists armed and funded by Western neo-colonialists and who operate as a terrorist support group.

The White Helmets, it should be noted, are not the real Syria Civil Defense. And efforts to refer to the group as such are an affront to the real Syria Civil Defense, the members of which risk their lives every day to protect the Syrian people.

There’s no public phone number where the White Helmets can be reached in Syria. To reach the real Syria Civil Defense in Syria, though, one only needs to dial 113.

The real Syria Civil Defense

In the university area of western Aleppo, we pulled into one of the real Syria Civil Defense’s centres. Aleppo University was targeted by terrorist rocket fire in January 2013, which killed 87 and injured over 160. It was an attack designed to inflict maximum damage, taking place on the first day of exams.

The real Syria Civil Defense’s Aleppo Headquarters are in Hamdaniyah, one of the areas regularly pummelled by the mortars and missiles fired by the various groups of armed insurgents.

When we were met by the crew of this unit, I was immediately struck by the exhaustion etched on their faces, their ramshackle sleeping quarters, the paucity of equipment, and the worn, threadbare condition of the various boots, hoses and jackets that were on the ground or hanging from the fire truck doors and fenders.

Boots and a fire hose sit in the corner of the yard of the real Syria Civil Defense, waiting for the next call. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

Boots and a fire hose sit in the corner of the yard of the real Syria Civil Defense, waiting for the next call

From 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Aug. 15, they had been battling a fire in a plastics factory that was sparked by terrorist mortar attacks on the area.

The crew was initially hesitant to go into too much depth about their operations or the White Helmets, but they eventually opened up.

The Syria Civil Defense organization was established in 1953. The Aleppo crews currently have around 150 volunteers who are fully-trained paramedics with extensive training in all aspects of search and rescue. The volunteers are between 25 and 45, and the minimum age for joining and training is 18.

One of the real Syria Civil Defense’s fire engines parked at their unit in western Aleppo. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

One of the real Syria Civil Defense’s fire engines parked at their unit in western Aleppo

The crew said they were called out to a heavy “hell cannon” attack on the old citadel in central Aleppo on Aug. 2. Upon arriving on the scene, they noticed a pungent smell in the air which warned them of a toxic gas attack by the Nusra Front.

They were wearing lightweight paper oxygen masks. Because of U.S. and EU sanctions being imposed on Syria, these rescue workers are unable to replace their supply of high-spec gas masks that would have been a lifesaver on many occasions.

The concentration of gas was so high that the flimsy oxygen masks did not effectively prevent the toxic fumes entering their lungs. One of the crew members, Mohammed Ahmed Eibbish, 36, died while trying to rescue a woman from an affected building.

Other crew members and civilians reported symptoms of gas poisoning, such as dizziness, nausea, burns, spasms, and difficulty breathing. Four women died from inhaling toxic fumes during this attack, and 25 civilians were affected and hospitalized as a result.

Rather than report on these chemical attacks by “moderate rebels,” the mainstream media prefers to apportion blame to the Syrian government and the Syrian Arab Army despite the fact that the only chemical factory in Aleppo was taken over by the Nusra Front in 2012.

Editor: rest of article follow Source

(Source / 28.09.2016)



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