‘Miracle baby’ rescuer from 2014 killed by airstrike in rebel Syrian stronghold

Members of the Syria Civil Defense, also known as the "White Helmets" for their distinctive protective head gear, pose for a photograph in Aleppo, Syria. A veteran member of the team, Khaled Omar Harah, 31, (second from right) holds 2-year-old Mahmoud Idilbi -- the "miracle baby" who was buried for 16 days in the rubble of a bombed out house in 2014 before he was rescued. Harah was killed in an airstrike Thursday. Photo courtesy of Syria Civil Defense/Twitter

ALEPPO, Syria, Aug. 12 (UPI) — One of the longest-serving members of the Syria Civil Defense — who received global praise two years ago for rescuing a baby buried in a bombed out house — has been killed in the rebel stronghold of Aleppo, officials said Friday.

Khaled Omar Harah, a member of the rescue group also known as the “White Helmets,” was killed Thursday by a suspected Russian airstrike. He was helping to carry out a humanitarian mission in Aleppo.

“Mourning the loss of Khaled Omar. He saved countless lives, including the ‘miracle baby,'” the White Helmets tweeted Friday.

The “miracle baby” was 10-day-old Mahmoud Idilbi, who became trapped in the rubble of a devastated house in Aleppo in 2014. After working relentlessly with fellow White Helmets to save the child, who’d been in the rubble for 16 hours, Harah finally pulled him out.

The rescue was captured on video, which was subsequently seen by millions around the world.

Syria Civil Defense/Twitter

The Syria Campaign, an advocacy group, said Mahmoud’s was just one of many lives Harah helped save in the last two years since he joined the civil defense. The White Helmets have repeatedly risked their lives to carry out dangerous rescue missions in war-torn Syria.

“Khaled was one of the earliest volunteers of the White Helmets, since joining he has responded to thousands of attacks — and he made the same choice thousands of times — to run towards bombs knowing he could be killed,” the group said in a Facebook post Friday. “Millions of people around the world have watched the Miracle Baby video and been inspired by Khaled and his bravery.”

Russian warplanes have been conducting airstrikes against rebel forces to aid Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime for nearly a year. Aleppo, a rebel stronghold, has been the target of numerous strikes. A U.S.-led coalition has supported the rebels’ fight against Assad.

It wasn’t initially known how Harah was killed, but the Syria Civil Defense said Thursday that Russia had carried out a chemical attack in Aleppo that killed four people. It wasn’t clear whether the 31-year-old Harah was one of them.

Thursday’s attacks occurred amid a temporary daily cease-fire — a three-hour period each day during which Russian pledge not to strike to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid. Assad’s regime, however, has been accused of violating the agreement.

Harah, who joined the White Helmets in 2014, had a wife and two young daughters.

“Humanity lost another hero,” the Syria Campaign said.


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