Aleppo's Last Hope

Photographs by Sebastiano Tomada

In a Bombarded City, Volunteers Save Lives and Risk Their Own

More than three years after the start of the war in Syria, the country's second-largest city, Aleppo, is nearly a ghost town. Whole swaths of the city are abandoned and lie in ruin. The civilians who remain in the city live a life of fear and grief as their families, friends and neighbors are killed and wounded by President Bashar al-Assad's campaign to regain control of the city. The latest wave of this attack has brought with it an intense barrel-bombing offensive that wounds or kills dozens of people every day. The crude, highly inaccurate devices can wipe out entire buildings and are often dropped in quick succession, presumably with the aim of targeting those attempting to rescue victims of the first explosion.

Among those rescuers are members of the Hanano Civil Defense team, who, for over a year, has been rushing to the site of Aleppo's bomb blasts. Trained by organizations based in Turkey, the volunteers evacuate the injured, clean up the bodies of the dead, and fight fires. What they are best known for in Syria and abroad are the dramatic rescues - survivors pulled from beneath the rubble. In the summer of 2014, photographer Sebastiano Tomada spent eight days in Aleppo with these volunteers, a tight-knit band of brothers who risk their lives to save those of others.

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