Cautious optimism among Syrian-Canadians, aid organizations after U.S. airstrikes

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Cautious optimism among Syrian-Canadians, aid organizations after U.S. airstrikes

Syrian-Canadians are cautiously optimistic that Thursday's airstrikes against a Syrian airbase by the U.S. will be the catalyst for change in the region.

Syrian-born Bayan Khatib from Mississauga says after years of inaction "a world leader has stepped up to actually take actual action against the regime." But she worries that if "the action isn't followed up by a solution — a permanent solution and a complete solution to the crisis in Syria" it won't have beneficial impact.

The United States fired more than 50 Tomahawk missiles at Syria on Thursday in response to this week's chemical attack that killed more than 80 Syrian civilians. It was the first direct U.S. assault on President Bashar al-Assad's government and President Donald Trump's most dramatic military order since taking office.

Khatib, who has family in Syria, says the Syrian people were let down by what she calls former U. S. president Barack Obama's lack of action on the crisis and they've "miraculously held on to some sort of hope" over the years.

Faisal Alazem, a spokesperson for the Syrian Canadian Council, expressed surprise and relief, saying the move sparked hope that a turning point may have been reached in the country's conflict.

He added that Thursday's missile strike was long overdue in light of the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Syrian regime but he hopes the U.S. bombing isn't merely symbolic.

"The hope is to have a larger campaign that focuses on protecting civilians in Syria," he said.

Chemical attack was 'not a surprise,' says relief organization

Mark Cameron, vice-president of the Canadian International Medical Relief Organization, says this week's chemical attack in Syria was "not a surprise to anyone" and biological weapons have been used "literally hundreds of times and nothing has been done about it."

He admits he doesn't side with Trump politically, but says Thursday's missile strike "maybe should have happened a long time ago."

"President Trump has taken out one of their largest air force bases, if anything else, that should slow the bombings down for a bit," he said.

Cameron's organization has boots on the ground in Syria and says it has been witness to the horrific crimes committed by the al-Assad regime. During their immunization initiative, the group vaccinated 1.4 million Syrian children in one year in an attempt to prevent the resurgence of polio in the country.

When asked if the United States missile strike will make life more dangerous for civilians in Syria, he said "I don't think there's anything that could make the situation more unsafe than it has been in the last year or two."

One of Cameron's biggest concerns is the mental health of the civilian population in Syria, who he says may be dealing with the problem for the next 30, 40 or 50 years.  

Trump moved by pictures of children

Donald Trump has said he was moved to act by the sight of children killed in the sarin-gas attack.

The U.S. strikes — 59 missiles launched from the USS Ross and the USS Porter — hit the government-controlled Shayrat airbase in central Syria, where U.S. officials say the Syrian military planes that dropped the chemicals had taken off.

Alazem credits horrific photos showing the aftermath of the chemical attack, including images of suffering children, for fuelling international outrage.