Syrian Americans offered measured praise for the U.S. cruise missile strikes overnight on Shayrat Airfield in Syria. The U.S. launched 59 Tomahawk missiles in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 100 people — an attack Washington blamed on Syria’s government, led by President Bashar al-Assad.
"It’s bitter sweet. No one would want his homeland to be bombed, but the butcher of Syria [a reference to al-Assad] left no love in anyone's heart for him or his troops," Syria-born mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, Mohamed Khairullah, told NBC News. "I'm happy because this strike brings joy to the millions who were displaced and whose lives were destroyed by this ruthless dictator."
The Syrian military said the U.S. action violates all international laws and customs and makes the United States a "partner" of ISIS and other terrorist organizations.
But Bassam Rafai, a Syrian American living in Princeton, New Jersey, and a spokesperson for the Syrian American Council, expressed gratitude towards the Trump administration. "I feel very thankful to the president about this," he told NBC News.
"He's done to Assad in two days what we waited six years for. It's the first day of hope for the Syrian people in six years. I welcome his statement that the civilized world should work together to end the bloodshed that Assad has caused in Syria."
Adham Sahloul, a Syrian American from Chicago and an advocacy officer at the Syrian American Medical Society in Turkey, said, "There hasn't been a morning like this in years where my Syrian friends and colleagues here feel some relief, some hope that the status quo has changed."
In San Diego, which is home to more than 600 refugees, Mony Zarour, 22, told NBC 7 that even one more bomb is too many. She and her father said that 55 members of her family had died over the years as a result of the conflict. Zarour expressed fear for her family members still in Syria.
"They are people, just like us. They don't want anything — just to stay in their home," she told NBC 7. "They need peace — a [peaceful] place to live. We want to stop the violence and the war."
Zarour's father, meanwhile,told the news outlet that he's relieved at the actions Trump is taking to combat al-Assad. Through an interpreter, he called Assad a dictator, terrorist, and war criminal who "deserves" what's happening.
Inside Syria, there was more reluctance to celebrate the news. Abdulkafi Alhamodo, an English teacher who lives in the northern countryside of Idlib, said he had to explain the situation to his 7 year old brother in law. ''He was telling me happily that the U.S. targeted Assad and was asking me, 'Can I go to school without being afraid of rockets? Does this mean no planes in the sky?' He is too optimistic.''
Meanwhile, in the hours after the strike, a meme began circulating on social media showing a photo of Trump along with the words “we love you” in Arabic, according to analysts.