US ends freeze on funding to Syria's White Helmets

US ends freeze on funding to Syria's White Helmets
The US has released funding to Syrian civil rescue group, The White Helmets, after the state department earlier announced a freeze.
2 min read
14 June, 2018
White Helmets workers have rescued thousands of Syrians [AFP]
The US State Department announced on Thursday it will release $6.6 million in aid to the White Helmets, ending a brief freeze on funding to the Syrian civil rescue team. 

Funds will go to the White Helmets and the UN International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (UNIIIM), which helps collect evidence on Syrian war crimes.

"The president has authorised the United States Agency for International Development and the US Department of State to release approximately $6.6 million for the continuation of vital, life-saving operations of the Syrian Civil Defence (White Helmets)... and the UN's (IIIM)," a statement from the US State Department read.

US President Donald Trump reportedly ordered a freeze on $200 million in aid to Syria, some of which went to the White Helmets along with other civil groups in opposition areas.

White Helmets' volunteers are first responders, who have worked to rescue victim's of Syrian regime and Russian bombing of opposition areas.

Around 100,000 people are thought to have been rescued by the group, while 230 volunteers have been killed in rescue missions.

Gunmen - believed to be linked to extremist groups - have also shot dead a number of rescue workers. 

In May, five first responders were killed when a man fired on the volunteers at a rescue centre.

Around 500,000 people have been killed in Syria's war, the vast majority civilians killed by regime bombing.

War broke out in 2011, when anti-government protests were brutally suppressed by the regime.