BOMBSHELL: Vanessa Beeley Interviews White Helmets Members Who Admit Nusra, Extremist Connections, Israeli Assistance To Terrorists
21st Century Wire
“If you shout at us we will cry, we are so sensitive” Abu Mohanad Al Mahamid told me on the 20th September 2018. Al Mahamid is the leader of the still-functioning White Helmet center in Dara’a Al Balad to the south of Damascus in Syria. Al Mahamid had donned his white helmet for the camera before he spoke to us about the role of these White Helmets who had remained in Dara’a Al Balad, when other White Helmet members had boarded the buses for Idlib with Nusra Front or for Israel and Jordan as part of the special evacuation organised by the members of the US Coalition.
The journey to this White Helmet center had been a circuitous one. I traveled with my translator and a Syrian journalist working independently on this trip. Since July 2018 a tenuous ceasefire had been negotiated between the armed groups and members of the Russian Reconciliation team. Conditions included the surrendering of heavy and medium weapons. (De-escalation zones had previously been established in mid 2017). Russia secured the right of admission to liberated areas for the Syrian Arab Army and the withdrawl of extremist groups from areas close to the Jordanian borders. The Al Nassib border crossing, for example, would come back under the management of the SAA. While some groups occupying areas in the countryside and city of Daraa accepted the Russian conditions, Dara’a Al Balad was one of the areas that chose to continue with a ‘policy of confrontation’.
“..military factions have refused the offer entirely and choose confrontations, especially in Dara’a al-Balad and the towns of Saida, elmiathin, Nasib, el-Emtaih, al-Naimah, el-Taebah, arriving at the western countryside of Tafas, Nawa and its surrounding. The concerned factions include “al-Thawra Army”, “First Artillery Regment” “Osod al-Sunna”, “Falojat Horan Brigade”, “Thuwar al- Jaidour” and “al-Bunyan al-Marsous”.” ~ taken from a report in Enab Baladi in July 2018
Russia had offered a separate deal to the rebranded Nusra Front faction, Hayat Tahrir Al Sham (HTS), occuping areas of Dara’a. According to the report in Enab Baladi, the former Emir of HTS, the infamous Abu Jaber, turned down the Russian proposal. Abu Jaber had originally been one of the founding commanders of the “moderate” extremist group, Ahrar Al Sham, responsible for a number of brutal ethnic cleansing massacres in Syria. The carnage in Al Zara in the suburbs of Homs was carried out by this group in May 2016, targeting a predominantly Alawite community. One of the more horrifying images to emerge from this bloodthirsty rampage was one depicting Ahrar Al Sham militants standing over the corpses of brutally murdered women. Despite these repugnant sectarian crimes against the Syrian people, the US administration refused to comply with Russian demands that Ahrar Al Sham be designated a “terrorist” group.
Sheikh Abdullah Muhaysini with SAA captives at Abu Duhur Air Base. (Photo: Syria Comment)
In January 2017 Abu Jaber resigned from Ahrar Al Sham altogether and five major extremist groups merged into the rebranded HTS with Abu Jaber as their Emir. In October 2017, Abu Jaber was replaced as Emir by Mohammed Al-Joulani. During its formation, HTS had also released a statement “saying that six leading jihadi scholars have joined the newly formed group.” One of these was Sheikh Abdullah Mohammed Al Muhaysini, a Riyadh educated and financed zealot, one of the most extreme and bloodthirsty ideologues operating in Syria. The US administration designated Muhaysini a terrorist in 2016.
The UK Intelligence propaganda construct, and multi-million-dollar US Coalition-financed White Helmet group has consistently demonstrated its ties to these terrorist and “moderate” extremist groups in Syria. White Helmet operatives have been filmed with Muhaysini in the countryside of Northern Hama/Idlib, welcoming terrorist factions evacuated from Daraya as part of the Syrian Government’s Amnesty and Reconciliation deal, in August 2016 . Muhaysini has often endorsed and supported the White Helmets, describing them as “no different to the Mujahadeen (armed groups)” in September 2016.
((For videos, please go to: 21stCenturyWire))
Muhaysni talks about White Helmets: “They are no diff from the Mujahideen”. Thanks, Sheikh that’s what we’ve been saying all along #Syria
Walid@walid970721On March 16 the leader of HTS (Al-Qaeda in #Syria) Abu Jaber thanked the #WhiteHelmets & called them the “hidden soldiers of the revolution”
This introduction will provide important background to the claims and statements made by the White Helmets and FSA commander, Adham Alkarad whom I also met in Dara’a Al Balad in September 2018 while inside the White Helmet headquarters.
Entering Daraa – Dara’a Countryside, Al Omari Mosque, Al Manshia and Dara’a Al Balad
Members of armed group Shabab Al Sunnah in Al Manshia, Dara’a Al Balad. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)
After discussions with the Syrian Arab Army and Russian Military Police officials we entered areas of the countryside of Dara’a and Dara’a City , accompanied by members of one of the armed groups that had accepted Russian/Syrian ceasefire conditions, Shabab Al Sunnah. We visited the Ramsa border with Jordan which is for vehicles only and was one of the main supply routes from Jordan to the assorted armed groups occupying Dara’a City and the surrounding areas.As we hear so often during these trips, the members of Shabab Al Sunnah confirmed that Nusra Front had been the dominant force in the province.
The Ramsa border with Jordan. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)
Logo of the “Sons of Al Aqsa” brigade in the border checkpoint at Ramsa border with Jordan. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)
Air Defence Base
The road into the Air Defence Base in the Dara’a Countryside
After the border with Jordan, we headed north-west to the Air Defence Base that had been the scene of the massacre of the SAA soldiers defending the base by members of the Al Bunyan Al Marsous military operations group that was made up of 17 armed factions including HTS, Ahrar Al Sham and various divisions of the “moderate” FSA. The motto of the group was “Death and No Humiliation”. On 20th June 2017, the base was overrun by extremist groups. The majority of the SAA soldiers were brutally murdered. To our knowledge four soliders were taken captive and the bodies and captives were brought back to an area very close to the White Helmet center in Dara’a Al Balad.
Image taken from Twitter showing Air Defence Base under attack and on point of capture June 2017.
SAA bodies, killed at the Air Defence Base, were piled up in the back of a truck before being brought back to Dara’a City. (Photo: Screenshot from video)
A White Helmet operative was videoed clambering over the broken and bloody bodies of the soldiers while one of the armed group members held a severed head aloft in triumph. Another video was also released showing the militants laughing and manhandling the bodies piled on top of one another in the back of the truck. I will cover this incident in more detail later in the article and demonstrate that the White Helmets and HTS/FSA were responsible for a hideous war crime, one of many ignored by the colonial media cartel in the West.
The Air Defence Base now back under the control of the SAA since July 2018. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)
The Air Defence Base had then been taken over and occupied by HTS/Nusra Front, again according to the Shabab Al Sunnah fighters, before its liberation by the SAA in 2018.
The road into the Air Defence Base. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)
The road into the base was still strewn with the remnants of destroyed tanks and armoured vehicles, the burned out remains of a rocket launcher pick-up truck was turning to ash behind a bank of earth. Inside the base we could see the familiar HTS graffitti and logos of the military groups on the walls of the huts and corrugated metal portakabins. It was a strange experience to walk around the base in the company of fighters who very possibly participated in the “moderate” offensive that had claimed the lives of the SAA defenders whose bodes had then been so abused and dehumanized.
A street in Al Manshia district. The Graffitti reads ‘Islamic State’. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)
After visiting the Air Defence Base, we drove through the Al Manshia district of Dara’a Al Balad. In 2014 Al Manshia was still under control of the SAA and it came under concerted attack from the “moderate” FSA forces. These militants, power multiplied by the US Coalition, pounded Al Manshia with tank and mortar fire, they dug tunnels under SAA positions, packed them with explosives and detonated them. For the FSA the taking over of Al Manshia was strategically important as it secured control over all of Dara’a Al Balad (Old City) and opened the road to Dara’a al-Mahatta (New City) for the armed groups. It was also a battle to prevent SAA control over the Nassib border crossing with Jordan and to secure the crossing for the supply of equipment for the armed groups. Battles in Al Manshia raged back and forth and in February 2017, the FSA combined forces with Ahrar Al Sham and HTS (Al Qaeda) to conduct another major offensive against the entrenched SAA. One month later the SAA pushed back against the Nusra Front-led forces and retook part of Al Manshia. Final SAA liberation of the Manshia district took place in July 2018.
In the early days of the Syrian conflict, the reporting was heavily weighted in favour of the “rebels” and was being led by the likes of the BBC, Al Jazeera and CNN who lionised the armed groups while holding the Syrian government almost entirely responsible for the loss of life as the sectarian mob violence that they whitewashed threatened civilians and security forces alike and chaos reigned, particularly in Dara’a. I will not be going into depth in this article but recommended reading (or viewing) on the reality of what happened in Dara’a can be found here, here and here.
“The Omari Mosque was the scene of backstage preparations, costume changes and rehearsals. The Libyan terrorists, fresh from the battlefield of the US-NATO regime change attack on Libya, were in Deraa well ahead of the March 2011 uprising violence. The cleric of the Omari Mosque was Sheikh Ahmad al Sayasneh .[…] However, the visitors from Libya did not make themselves known to the cleric, as that would blow their cover. Instead, they worked with local men; a few key players who they worked to make their partners and confidants. The participation of local Muslim Brotherhood followers, who would assist the foreign Libyan mercenaries/terrorists, was an essential part of the CIA plan, which was well scripted and directed from Jordan.” ~ Steven Sahiounie, The Day Before Deraa:How the War Broke out in Syria.
Independent journalist Eva Bartlett interviewed a Dara’a priest, Father Gerges Rizk in May 2018. He also explained the geopolitical context of what was really behind the “protests” in Daraa. WATCH:
These relentless extremist-group campaigns to dominate the district have left Al Manshia scarred and battered. Driving through the neighbourhood we saw the familiar bullet-strafed and mortar- fractured buildings, collapsing into the rubble that was strewn haphazardly across much of the devastated area. I filmed our journey through Al Manshia to the Al Omari Mosque, still accompanied by the Shabab Al Sunnah fighters. At one point we draw level with them to ask them to slow down so I can film. The final part of the video is as we arrive at the back of the Al Omari mosque. Watch:
Al Omari Mosque
We pulled up behind the Al Omari Mosque which was the scene of the allegedly “peaceful” protests that rocked the centre of Dara’a and became the beacon of Western media sensationalism and “rebel”-biased fervour in the early days of the Syrian conflict. We followed the Shabab Al Sunnah fighters into the courtyard of the Mosque and we had time to wander among the archways and to film the damage that had been done to the historic site.
We stopped to speak to this 13 year old boy, Ahmed, who was happy to be back at school since the ceasefire took effect in Dara’a Al Balad. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)
Walking around the Mosque was reminiscent of entering the Omayyed Mosque in the Old City of Aleppo immediately after its liberation from the extremist gangs that had occupied it for almost five years and converted it into a sniper’s nest and military centre. There was still a sense of brooding tension and I felt the same again inside the Al Omari Mosque. A young boy who is seen in the video (and photo above) did stop to tell us that life was better now that the ceasefire had come into effect, he was glad to be back in school and to see an end to the violence that had wracked his neighbourhood for so many years.
Video footage taken inside the Al Omari Mosque. Watch:
The White Helmets of Dara’a Al Balad
The White Helmet center in Dara’a Al Balad. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)
The Shabab al Sunnah fighters had picked up on the fact we wanted to speak to the White Helmets so they obliged by bringing us to the only functioning White Helmet center remaining in Daraa and Quneitra according to the members we spoke to in the center. It was explained to them that I was an independent British journalist by my translator. The Center was a small building in the grounds of what looked like a school complex.
The White Helmet center is the pin showing how close the center is to the Al Omari Mosque.
Satellite image showing the buildings that made up the White Helmet center in Dara’a Al Balad.
When I asked what the larger building was, I was told it had previously been a school that had been taken over by Nusra Front/HTS, so again it appears that the White Helmets were operating in close proximity to the terrorist group. This close collaboration was also evident in East Aleppoand in Eastern Ghouta based upon testimony from civilians who had lived under the occupation of the extremist groups partnered by the White Helmets.
The Nusra Front occupied building – the White Helmet center was on the other side of the ground in front of this building. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)
When I visited the Christian town of Al Skeilbiyyeh in September, I was also shown a White Helmet and Nusra Front center in Al Madiq Citadel that was the tallest building in an area fully occupied by a combinaton of Ahrar Al Sham, Nusra Front (HTS) and Jaish Al Islam according to the National Defence Forces who were defending their town against attacks by these groups. The NDF also told me that the majority of these terrorist groups and the White Helmets had arrived together following their evacuation from Eastern Ghouta in March/April 2018.
The White Helmet center shared with Nusra Front in Al Madiq Citadel around 700 meters from the Al Skeilbiyyeh NDF front lines. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)
Throughout the various SAA allied military campaigns to liberate areas of Syrian territory, it is customary for the White Helmets to relocate with their Nusra Front counterparts during the reconcilation and evacuation process. Therefore, it was a rare opportunity to speak to White Helmets who had chosen to remain in an area still under control of the armed groups but under the partial supervision of the Syrian government and the Russian Reconciliation teams.
Entering the White Helmet center video footage. WATCH:
Conversations with White Helmets – Abu Mohanad Al Mahamid
The leader of this White Helmet center was a character who introduced himself as Abu Mohanad Al Mahamid. Once he had ascertained that I was a British journalist, he appeared to want to present an image that would impress me. At one point he put on his white helmet before launching into a defence of the White Helmet reputation . He insisted that even though they had been funded by the British government, they were not influenced by British policy. Al Mahamid did make the point, however, that they were pressured to follow British policies and he makes the distinction between serving “friends and enemies” which immediately suggests a degree of bias rather than his proclaimed neutrality:
“When I say that we are independent it means that we do not follow any one, when some come to me and say that you should follow British policies I say to them, no. We serve all people, our friends and our enemies.” ~ Al Mahamid
During his initial display of neutrality Al Mahamid was clearly on a drive to persuade me of the White Helmet good reputation. When questioned about the White Helmet involvement in executions carried out by HTS and associated groups in Dara’a, Al Mahamid was quick to echo the White Helmet party line which presents these White Helmets who do collaborate in crimes committed against Syrian civilians and SAA prisoners, as being “bad apples“, who are “sacked” for “misconduct” – rather than criminal thugs who collaborate in torture, execution and the punishmentof those who do not comply with their sectarian ideology or who have remained loyal to Syria’s government and army.
“..we have fired members only because they attended some sort of executions, because we save lives and we do not help anyone to kill any one because it is against humanity and notice that all White Helmet members are full of humanity and sensitive to the extent if you shout at them they cry. So our work is plain humanitarian work, and when we used to bring soldiers here, we used to respect them and treat them as one of us, because all Syrians are losing.” ~ Al Mahamid (emphasis added)
Al Mahamid was asked about the White Helmet connections to Nusra Front (HTS) bearing in mind the praise heaped upon the White Helmets by Abu Jaber and Muhaysini. Again, Al Mahamid was adamant that their White Helmet center had no such affiliation, despite being next door to the Nusra Front buildings. In his eagerness to present the case for their center he was quick to say that it was very possible that other White Helmet groups in Syria were affiliated to Nusra Front and made up of Nusra Front militants. The question was – “do you think that some White Helmet members or centers acted in a different way from other White Helmet centers, East Aleppo or other cities?”
“Of course, here we do not belong to any one, but someone in the Western area, for example, might be Nusra front. “
Al Mahamid was asked again – “so White Helmet members may also be Nusra Front?”
“Of course! They might be Nusra Front and run a White Helmet center so this means all his colleagues are also Nusra Front , but not in my area.” ~ Al Mahamid (emphasis added)
An interesting point is made here by Al Mahamid. If a White Helmet center is run by a Nusra Front member then all his colleagues will also be Nusra Front. This vindicates claims made by myself and other independent analysts that any area occupied by Nusra Front will be dominated and controlled by Nusra Front. Nusra Front is a brutal, ideologically supremacist organisation, so it would make perfect sense that if a White Helmet group is led by a prominent member of Nusra Front, the members are likely to adhere to the same ideology and to follow the same practices of extreme sectarian hatred and violence.
AbdulAziz Maghrabi seated centre, with Ahrar Al Sham & Abu Amara fighters. (Photo: Maghrabi’s Facebook page)
Case in question is the leadership of the White Helmets in East Aleppo. Abdulaziz Maghrabi was not only an armed member of Nusra Front but had also been an armed member of the Turkish-backed Al Tawhid brigade which invaded East Aleppo in 2012. Maghrabi also demonstrated allegiance to Abu Amara, the Nusra Front protection corps in East Aleppo. Maghrabi was photographed, on a number of occasions, working with both Nusra Front fighters and Abu Amara groups.
Read 21st Century Wire article, by Vanessa Beeley: White Helmets and Local Councils – is the UK FCO Financing Terrorism in Syria with Taxpayer Funds?
When we asked Al Mahamid about the Israeli evacuation of White Helmets, he became very animated:
“There are some (armed) factions connected with Israel, those factions were gathered by Israel in Quneitra and were told that you will leave with the White Helmets. By the way the number of White Helmets in the southern area are 635, but those who left were 800. This means that there are (armed) factions who work with Mossad and they were extracted alongside the White Helmets. But for us here, we stood against this and demanded that the record of the White Helmet members to be reviewed because not all who left were White Helmets. Because not all those who left were White Helmets, there were people who left from Quneitra. There were terrorists, some left from the Yarmouk Basin”
“You mean ISIS” we asked
“So ISIS left with other armed factions alongside the White Helmets?”
“What happened is that Israel told the factions it supports to leave with the White Helmets. But here in this center were 38 members but no one left.”
“So, those who left – where were they from?”
“They were from Quneitra and the FSA and armed factions who are supported by Israel. This what we witnessed, I do not deny the fact that around 50 % of those who left to Israel were White Helmets but the rest were factions supported by Israel.”
#Quneitra – Maadeh Nassar “The Commander of the ‘Golan Knights Brigade”, Ahmad Al-Nuhas Commander of the “Brigade of the Sword of the Levant”, Alaa Halaki “Commander of the Ababel army” and Abu Ratib Nassar, leader of the ‘Golan Knights Brigade” escape to #Israel today morning.
Video: following the tracks of the armed groups and the White Helmets into Israeli occupied Syrian territory. WATCH:
During my time in the south, I had also visited Quneitra and followed in the tracks of the armed groups and White Helmets as they were evacuated from Syria into the Israeli-occupied Syrian territory of the Golan heights and, from there, were transported to Jordan. Of the estimated 800 who escaped Syria by this Israel-facilitated route, allegedly only 442 made it to Jordan for resettlement in the designated countries which included Canada, UK, France and Germany…
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