During a September 11th press briefing, Heather Nauert, US Department of State spokesperson, accused Russia and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of spreading false accusations that endanger the White Helmets group.
She said that the Syrian and Russian governments create risk conditions for the White Helmets “rescue” group by spreading accusations of their “malign activities in Syria.”
“The Assad regime and Russia continue to falsely accuse the White Helmets through a massive disinformation campaign leaving its volunteers at significant risk,” she said. According to her the international community and the US continue supporting the White Helmets group, despite the Netherlands will discontinue funding for the group from December 2018.
Earlier in the day, Sputnik cited the Russian Center for Syrian Reconciliation which reported that “all the fake footage of “chemical attacks,” designed to facilitate the implication of Syrian government forces, is expected to be sent to different TV channels before the end of the day.”
“According to the information received from inhabitants of Idlib province, militants are now filming a staged provocation in the city of Jisr al-Shugur, where “chemical weapons” are depicted as being used by the Syrian army against civilians. The film crews of several Middle Eastern TV channels arrived in Jisr al-Shugur in the morning, as well as the regional affiliate of one of the main American television news networks,” the Reconciliation Center said.
Sputnik also cited the Russian military which added that the militants had brought two containers loaded with a chlorine-based toxic substance to Jisr al-Shughur to make the provocation seem “natural.”
“The plot envisages staged scenes showing ‘activists’ from the Civil Defense (“White Helmets”) ‘helping’ the residents of Jisr al-Shughur after the Syrian army allegedly used the so-called barrel bombs with poisonous substances,” the center said. According to the center, all videos of provocations shot in Jisr al-Shughur will be provided to broadcasters by end of the day, after being released on social media.
Later in the day, Syrian human rights activist Ammar Jamal reinforced the Reconciliation center’s claims. He told Sputnik that a group of 30 White Helmets members arrived from Turkey to the Syrian province of Idlib to organize a provocation by staging the use of chemical weapons.
The Russian Ministry of Defense warned about the forthcoming false flag provocation, which will involve a staged chlorine gas attack, on August 26. Later, the ministry said that the results of this provocation could be used by the Western coalition forces as an excuse to launch another missile strike against the Syrian government.
During the press briefing she also said that US Department of State will continue working closely with the Department of Defense to ensure the success of the final phase of Operation Roundup in Syria. “The State Department will continue to work closely with our Department of Defense colleagues to ensure the success of this operation,” Nauert told reporters.
A few days earlier, on September 9th, Anadolu Agency reported footage that showed “showed Russian and [Assad] regime jets targeting teams of the White Helmets while rescuing civilians in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province.” The video showed a team of the White Helmets extinguishing a fire that broke out after an airstrike in Khan Sheykhun. Anas Diab, a civil defense member, was injured while capturing the video and pleaded for help by others around him when another strike hit the area near him.
Turkey appears to also strongly support the White Helmets, with Anadolu Agency on September 6th posting a report claiming that the “rescue” group’s members are “Syria’s savior angels.” According to Anadolu Agency, until now, the group has rescued at least 115,000 civilians from the debris of regime and its supporter’s bombardments. The Turkish state outlet also reported that “the civil defense agency, which has proved the regime and its supporters’ attacks and crimes, have been exposed to their smear campaign recently.” Citing White Helmets’ director Raed Saleh said that their only aim in Syria was to help civilians and they had no connection with any military or political institutions since its establishment. ““We’ve proved their crimes, and we are targeted,” he was cited as saying.
At the same time, Middle East Eye, on September 11th, posted the article “White Helmets rescue: A cheap PR stunt for settler-colonialist regimes.” According to the outlet, Israel and Canada did not step up for humanitarian reasons, but rather to deflect attention from their ongoing abuses against indigenous peoples. According to Ahmad Moussa, the author of the article, Israel uses the White Helmets group “as a front to whitewash its reputation and deflect attention from the crimes it has been committing against Palestinians.”
Both Damascus and Moscow accused militants and the White Helmets non-governmental organization of staging several provocations involving chemical weapons to influence public opinion and justify foreign intervention in Syria. The White Helmets were also the ones who reported the chemical attack that led to the April 18th airstrikes by US and allies.