Famed Syrian rescue worker dies in airstrike

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One the longest-serving members of a rescue organization in Syria, who rose to fame in 2014 after a video captured him saving a 10-day-old baby trapped beneath a crumbled building, was killed in an airstrike Thursday in Aleppo.

Khaled Omar Harah, 31, a member of the Syrian Civil Defense, died during an airstrike in a rebel-held area of the city, a spokesperson for the organization told NBC News. He is survived by his wife and their two daughters.

Harah was one of nearly 3,000 members carrying out rescue missions with the group, whose workers are also known as the White Helmets. Operating in different locations across Syria, the White Helmets rush to damaged sites to save survivors and provide emergency supplies and medical treatment. They are a civilian force that does not fight in the conflict.

The organization reports that 130 rescuers have died while attempting to save lives during the five-year civil war.

Serving in Aleppo, one of the most contested areas in war that has been besieged for months, Harah operated with few supplies. An estimated 300,000 people are currently trapped in the city, which has been subject to heavy fighting in both aerial and ground attacks.

Although the planes that conducted the strike have not yet been identified, Russian and Syrian jets have hit rebel-occupied areas of Aleppo in recent months.

In a video uploaded to YouTube in August 2014, which boosted international awareness of White Helmets’ work, Harah and colleagues search for a baby in the rubble of a building hit by airstrikes. The clip shows Harah delicately pulling the infant out from under large slabs of concrete. Two years later, the video now has over 900,000 views.

“Can you imagine how this two-week-old baby survived after his house was hit by a barrel bomb and three stories collapsed above his head?” Harah asks in the video. “This baby was stronger than barrel bombs, stronger than collapsed ceilings, stronger than everything.”

While the footage highlighted the work of the White Helmets and offered insight into the difficulties of the Syrian war, the rescue was just one of many conducted by Harah and his team.

“Countless people owe their lives to Khaled,” The Syria Campaign, an advocacy group, said in a Facebook post honoring Harah. “For years he ran into danger, emerging from the dust carrying people in his arms or on his shoulders. He was killed doing what Khaled did – saving others.”

Before he served in the White Helmets, he was a painter and decorator. But when the war broke out, he quickly joined to aid rescue efforts.

“Humanity lost another hero,” the Facebook post by The Syria Campaign read. “We are all heartbroken.”

The post Famed Syrian rescue worker dies in airstrike appeared first on PBS NewsHour.