Saving Syria’s Children: the White Helmets connection

Part 2 here

A fledgling incarnation of faux humanitarian organisation the White Helmets appears to have attended the alleged incendiary attack which featured in the BBC Panorama programme Saving Syria’s Children.

A Volvo fire engine marked in English and with no license plate was filmed at Urm al-Kubra, Aleppo on 26 August 2013.

From 57s to 1:02 in the video the vehicle is seen outside the residential apartment building which the BBC claims was the initial target of a Syrian fighter jet which then allegedly attacked a nearby school playground. [1] From 24s to 30s, in a chronologically later sequence, the fire engine departs Urm al-Kubra, heading west towards Atareb:

Fire engine with English markings departs Urm al-Kubra, Aleppo, 26 August 2013, about to head west towards Atareb.

The same vehicle appears in footage shot almost three years later following an alleged air strike on a White Helmets (“Syria Civil Defense”) centre at Atareb on 26 April 2016:

The vehicle is identifiable by dark patches on its side and rear shutters (click on gallery images to enlarge):

A reader of this blog believes he has located the White Helmets centre at Atareb [2], placing it less than 2km away from Atareb Hospital where alleged victims of the purported August 2013 incendiary attack were filmed by the BBC Panorama team of Ian Pannell and Darren Conway:

Atareb Hospital – marked SSC (Saving Syria’s Children) Hospital – and White Helmets centre at Atareb

Close up of White Helmets centre

An individual interviewed following the destruction of the centre appears also to have been present during the aftermath of the alleged incendiary attack on the residential building in Urm al-Kubra in 2013 (see from 3:10 to 3:13 here):

Male present at scene of alleged Urm al-Kubra incendiary attack in August 2013 appears to be same individual interviewed following the destruction of the White Helmets centre at Atareb in 2016. (First inset image auto-adjusted for brightness).

Independent journalist Vanessa Beeley has conducted an ongoing investigation into the White Helmets. Beeley’s research comprehensively reveals the organisation to be a terrorist-affiliated “phony NATO shadow state construct, masquerading as a Humanitarian NGO”.

In May 2017 acclaimed documentary filmmaker and journalist John Pilger, whose career was the subject of a two-day retrospective at the British Library in December 2017, described the White Helmets as a “complete propaganda construct”.

It is now established that Pannell and Conway used Al-Qaeda linked jihadi group Ahrar al-Sham as security during the filming of Saving Syria’s Children, scant weeks after the group’s participation in the massacre and kidnap of civilians, and that Conway’s close-quarters footage of alleged victims arriving at Atareb Hospital features at least one vehicle prominently displaying the ISIS banner[3]

With troubling questions hanging over the veracity of Pannell and Conway’s report, the apparent involvement of a nascent White Helmets in the alleged August 2013 incendiary incident further undermines the credibility of the BBC’s accounts of the supposed incident.

The chronology of events would appear to make such involvement a possibility. Beeley writes that the White Helmets

were established in March 2013 by a British ex-military officer, James Le Mesurier, with $300,000 in seed funding from Japan, the U.K. and the U.S.

report [4] on the destruction of the White Helmets centre at Atareb states:

The Civil Defense Center was opened in al-Atareb in the beginnings of 2013. [5]

The British involvement in the establishment of the White Helmets is reflected in the takeover, in May 2013, of Atareb Hospital by the UK charity Hand in Hand for Syria. A number of serious concerns about Hand in Hand for Syria are noted here[6]


[1] As observed here, in another video shot inside the apartment building in the aftermath of the alleged attack one of those present has no qualms about standing on what would appear to be part of the casing of the alleged incendiary shell – claimed by the BBC to contain a “napalm-type substance” – in his bare feet:

[2] Using videos made following the attack and images such as these:

[3] The identity and/or role of other uniformed and/or armed or professionally equipped individuals filmed by Conway and others at Atareb Hospital remains an open question:

Particularly notable is the presence at Atareb Hospital of former commander of the Ansar Brigade and commander of Jabhat al-Nusra ally Jaysh al-Mujahideen (Army of Mujahideen) Yusuf Zou’a:

[4] The report’s author, Amer Faj, is likely the former Reuters freelance photographer Amer Alfaj, who in 2013 was photographed attending the launch of a “Hell cannon” mortar:

Alfaj also posted these images on Facebook:

Other of Alfaj’s photographs have been published in The Daily Mail and The Telegraph.

[5] Another organisation present at Atareb Hospital on 26 August 2013 is the Free Aleppo Governorate Council, which “formed in March 2013 to provide services and administrative assistance for civilians living in free areas of Aleppo Province”. (

[6] In 2014 a team of Syrian investigators researching the alleged 26 August 2013 incendiary attack reported that, under the auspices of Hand in Hand for Syria, Atareb Hospital was “facing very serious problems of administration, honesty, transparency and professionalism.”

The report quotes from a Syrian Facebook account (now defunct although sample screengrab here) critical of Hand in Hand for Syria’s administration of Atareb Hospital:

3rd of July 2013
It is a question of public interest

If it is said that to be conceded a job at Alatareb’s Hospital you have to be a revolutionary and the owner of a certificate, how did they refuse revolutionaries that have certificates and accepted revolutionary people that do not have certificates or even experience to work in the hospital ……??????

The team’s report (Word download) is here.

About Robert Stuart

Researching the 2013 BBC Panorama documentary Saving Syria's Children and associated BBC News reports.

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