14.04.2018 | Syrian neighbors react to US-led strikes with excitement, fear and hope
Source - Fox News

Obada Alstof, a 21-year-old opposition activist from the northern countryside of Homs, was woken up with a loud jolt and tremor in the early hours of Saturday morning. It came as a welcome surprise. “The explosions were so loud,” Alstof told Fox News in the immediate aftermath. “We had no idea what was happening but we immediately expected that the international coalition was targeting the regime locations.” The United States and its allies wasted little time before retaliating against the Bashar al-Assad regime over its use last week of chemical weapons, sending bombs raining down at a former missile base - some 15 miles west of Homs. That's where the regime is believed to keep chemical-weapon precursors stockpiled -- in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. According to Pentagon officials, a number of facilities were struck: a chemical weapons storage facility; a chemical weapons equipment storage and crucial command post near Homs; and a scientific research facility in Damascus, believed to be key in the production of chemical and biological weapons. Alsatof lives just miles from the Scientific Research Center in the western countryside of Homs, in a rebel-held area besieged by Syrian forces. What will happen next? Immediately after the U.S.-led strikes, those in the neighborhood started calling one another and speculating on what would happen next. “We hope for the future that strikes will expand to include all the Syrian regime and its supported militias’ military locations," Alstof continued, "because the regime and its allies are committing massacres against the civilians every day.” Others were wrought with mixed emotions. “Early morning today, I woke up because of the sound of Syrian anti-aircraft. I did not see the explosions but I heard the sounds,” Zilal Mansour, a 33-year-old in Damascus, recalled. “These were weaker compared to the sounds of shelling in Al-Ghouta, although I knew that military area near my residential ‘Barza’ was being targeted.” Mansour said she didn’t feel any shaking, but was left with a kind of emptiness that comes in the heat of long and arduous war. “I did not feel anything, I was not sad or happy. Assad should be punished,” she said. “But would this strike be like the previous one? Or is it for pressing him for political concessions?” Meanwhile, Said al-Hamawi, 20, a business student at a private Damascus university, said he saw a rocket shoot across the sky around 5:30 a.m., heading from the west to the northeast before being hit by Syrian anti-aircraft defense mechanisms. “It exploded in the sky. It was very clear. There were far explosions in the sky, but that was the clearest,” Hamawi recalled. “I hope that this attack will achieve almost Assad's weapons destruction, whıch will rid the Syrians civilians of weapons that will be used against them.” "We don't want to see our people killed' Further north in Syria from Kobane to Manbij, currently under control of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), news of the strikes was met, overall, quite favorably among locals, who still deeply fear retaliation from the authoritarian regime. “If we know the U.S. will stay here long-term to protect us, it is no problem, we can speak freely,” one local explained in Manbij. “But until then, we don’t know what will happen. We don’t want to see our people killed in retaliation. The situation is too sensitive.” Nonetheless, others were quick to indicate that the strikes were less effective than they could have been. Reports from within Syrian regime territory claimed that advance warnings from Russia gave them leeway to evacuate the bases, and furthermore, insist several of the missiles were shot down.

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