Civil defence volunteers hold vigils for seven colleagues shot dead by unknown perpetrators in Sarmin on Saturday

Rescue workers in Syria have staged protests against the killing of colleagues, the latest attack on humanitarian personnel in the war-hit country.

Seven members of the Syrian civil defence – known globally as the White Helmets, volunteers who rescue victims from the rubble after airstrikes in opposition-held areas of Syria – were shot dead by unknown assailants on Saturday in Sarmin, a town in Idlib province, which borders Turkey.

White Helmet volunteers held vigils across Syria on Sunday, carrying signs that read “Save White Helmets” and “The men of civil defence are used to saving civilian lives, but found none to save theirs”.

“Every one of you has a story with the wounded and you have given your blood to save others,” said Raed al-Saleh, head of the White Helmets. “I hold all those who claim leadership responsible. You must uncover the criminals who carried out this heinous crime.”

The Syrian civil defence said the attackers had also stolen two vans used to transport the wounded to hospitals and clinics..

Related: The White Helmets leader: ‘We can anticipate the scale of destruction based on the sound of the plane’

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