Syrians inside the country met the news of a U.S. strike on a Syrian army base with a mix of optimism and despondence, six years into a war which has seen half a million people killed and half the population displaced.
Shadi al-Haj, a doctor in Idlib province, who treated victims of Tuesday’s chemical attack, welcomed the news positively.
“This air base was used to kill innocent people, innocent children, innocent women, a lot of innocent people, for many years,” he told Middle East Eye (MEE).
The U.S. airstrikes hit the Shayrat Air Base in Homs, from which it says the deadly chemical attack on Idlib was launched earlier this week.
“I am happy to hear about the strike,” Haj added, “because the airbase was used to destroy our people, and the soul of our people. Of course we are happy.”
“Today, the sun is shining.”
But Mohammad Shbeeb, originally from Aleppo, and now living as a displaced person in Idlib, was more cautious.
“If the strikes don’t take down the regime and don’t prevent Assad from ruling in Syria, it means nothing.”
Years of inaction by the international community, despite increasing Syrian government brutality, have left Syrians jaded, Shbeeb said.
“We have experience now. The international community is not serious about fighting Assad.”
As a Syrian and Assad chemical weapons massacre survivor I want to thank @POTUS for striking the dictator, you gave us hope god bless u Sir!
— kassem Eid (@QZakarya) April 7, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump, he added, is keen to look strong.
For Abdulkafi Alhamdo, also from Aleppo and now living in Idlib, the overnight attack doesn’t signal an end to Assad’s reign any time soon.
“If this does not stop Assad from bombing us, then nothing will change,” he told MEE.
“I mean, children are going to die. This time not by chemical weapons, but by airstrikes and other kinds of weapons.”
Kassem Eid, who survived the sarin gas attack on Ghouta in 2013, said he felt like the U.S. move was a “game changer.”
“This might be the beginning of a new era, this might be actually a real chance for peace in Syria,” he told MEE from Germany, where he now lives.
“As long as Assad and his allies think there are not any consequences, they will never stop using their forces to gain ground and there will never be any real political transition or a peace process as long as they think they can do whatever they want,” he added.
When he first heard the news this morning, Eid, also known as Qusai Zakarya, thought he was dreaming.
“I was very happy, overwhelmed,” he said. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time, we have been waiting to see Assad held accountable for more than six years and this was the first time we’ve seen any punishment.”
In besieged eastern Ghouta outside Damascus, Tariq al-Dimashqi (not his real name) also questioned Trump’s end game.
“I’m happy because somebody has finally done hurt to this butcher, Assad, but nevertheless, what are Trump’s intentions?”
He feels it is perhaps little more than propaganda from Trump, he told MEE.
“Trump wants to tell the Americans and the world that he is different from Obama,” the former president, who threatened airstrikes against the Syrian government in 2013, after another deadly chemical weapons attack, but ultimately backed down.
But, if the conflict escalates, Dimashqi added, and Russia – Assad’s key ally – is preoccupied with war with the U.S., peace might return to Syria, he believes.
“I hope that conflict between Americans and Russians will start so the political solution in Syria will approach fast.”
The fact that the U.S. had informed Russia ahead of the attack, which the Pentagon confirmed on Friday, was a worrying sign, Dimashqi said.
“If the two powers aren’t in conflict, no political solution is possible.”
Never miss an update. Sign up here for our Syria Deeply newsletter to receive weekly updates, special reports and featured insights on one of the most critical issues of our time.