U.S., Relenting, Releases Funding for Syrian 'White Helmets'

WASHINGTON—The U.S. reversed a decision to suspend funding for Syria’s nongovernmental “White Helmets,” a volunteer rescue organization that provides emergency response services in areas affected by the country’s civil war, and released about $6.6 million in aid to the group, the State Department said Thursday.

The organization, which is best known for rushing to the scenes of airstrikes to pull victims out of the rubble, is among the largest civil society groups operating in the war-torn country. The State Department said in a statement that the White Helmets have saved over 100,000 lives.


Donald Trump

in March decided to halt funding for the group as part of a broader decision to suspend $200 million in aid, in line with plans he outlined to withdraw swiftly from Syria and push other countries to step in.

The State Department didn’t immediately comment on the fate of the $200 million in Syrian aid for recovery efforts, which has been under review for weeks. Secretary of State

Mike Pompeo

told Congress during a hearing last month that his team would come to a swift decision on the funds, which has left aid groups in Syria in limbo waiting for the outcome.

Thursday’s statement said the released funding would help Syria’s White Helmets continue their lifesaving work, which included responding to the victims of suspected chemical attacks. Some 230 members had died in service, it said.

“These heroic first responders have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world and continue to be deliberately targeted by the Syrian regime and Russian airstrikes,” the statement said.

The White Helmets said the money would enable them to continue to rescue civilians and provide services in Syria.

“On behalf of the White Helmets, I would like to thank the American people and the U.S. government for the continued support of our teams,” said Majd Khalaf, a White Helmets spokesman in Idlib, Syria.

Write to Jessica Donati at Jessica.Donati@wsj.com

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