Syria chemical attack survivors hail Trump for hitting back

Residents of the Syrian town still mourning their dead from a chemical attack welcomed the US strikes on a Syrian government airbase on Friday as a way to pressure Damascus.

“God bless Trump,” said Abu Ali, hours after the US launched a barrage of cruise missiles at the Shayrat base in Homs province. “God willing, these strikes will be a clear warning to Bashar Al Assad, to tell him: Bashar, enough killing and injustice against these people.”

The attack ordered by president Donald Trump followed a chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun on Tuesday that killed at least 86 people, among them 30 children, and left hundreds suffering symptoms including convulsions, vomiting or foaming at the mouth.

The area hit in the attack remained deserted on Friday, after survivors moved to other parts of the rebel-held town in the north-western province of Idlib.

“We consider these strikes not only as a reaction, but a way to avenge the blood of the martyrs who fell here in Khan Sheikhoun,” said Haj Kassar, a merchant in his fifties.

“They’re above us, threatening us again,” he said, as warplanes circled overhead on Friday, carrying out at least one strike outside the town.

“It doesn’t deliver even a small part of the justice the martyrs deserve,” added Abu Mohib, 37, an army officer who defected. “But it does lift the morale of the families of the dead.”

Syria’s conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests, but has since spiralled into a bitter and complex civil war that has drawn in international players and militant extremist groups.

Since last year, rebel groups have suffered a series of defeats against pro-government forces backed by Russian air strikes and military support, and many in rebel-held territory expressed hope that US strikes could reverse the situation.

“We hope that this will change the balance of power and deal the decisive blow to the Assad regime,” said Ali Al Khaled, a resident of the area hit in the chemical attack.

“We are grateful to the American air force and for the American response to the massacre in Khan Sheikhoun.” .

Khan Sheikhoun was the second deadliest chemical attack in the Syrian war, after a 2013 attack believed to have killed hundreds of people in Eastern Ghouta near Damascus.

That attack prompted then-US president Barack Obama to threaten military action, but he ultimately held off after a deal for Damascus to turn over its chemical arsenal. Friday’s strikes were the first direct US military action against Syria’s government since the conflict began six years ago.

In the Eastern Ghouta town of Douma, residents welcomed the strikes, but urged more military action.

“We hope that any foreign intervention would be an intervention to bring an end to the suffering of the Syrian people – not just a single hit followed by more crimes and killing,” said Abu Shahid, 30.

 “There should be a bigger deterrent to killing people than this,” added Abu Khalil, another resident. “I don’t think this is enough.”

Others expressed hope that Washington could ground all Syrian government planes.

“In reality, Syrians don’t care about military strikes as much as they care about a no-fly zone for all aircraft,” said Hassan Taqiddin, 27.

“In the end, these strikes have very limited impact. They hit this airport, then what?”

 More than 320,000 people have been killed and more than half the population displaced since Syria’s conflict began.

“Part of the Syrian people has fled, part is buried underground, another part is out chasing humanitarian aid,” said Abu Ali in Khan Sheikhoun.

“We just want Trump and his administration to put an end to this farce.”


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