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Syrian Vermonters React To News Of U.S., Allies Airstrikes

The Syrian Scientific Research Center in Damascus, Syria, one of the three targets of the U.S., British and French airstrikes on Syria.
Hassan Ammar
The Syrian Scientific Research Center near Damascus, Syria, one of the three targets of the U.S., British and French airstrikes on Syria.

International leaders have been reacting to Friday night’s air strike in Syria. Syrians living in Vermont are also following the situation closely.

The New York Times reports that warplanes and ships from the United States, Britain and France launched more than 100 missiles at three chemical weapons storage and research facilities near Damascus and Homs.

Mike Kalil and his wife Laila Sedo are among a small handful of Syrians living in Rutland. They’re not resettled refugees; both have become U.S. citizens, but Kalil says many of their relatives still live in Syria.

RELATED — "U.S., Allies Hit 3 Syrian Sites Linked To Chemical Weapons Program" [NPR]

“Oh my God, everybody’s there,” says Kalil.  “All my cousins and my uncles, all my extensions of both families are over there and a lot of them are scattered now between Germany, Turkey and Egypt, scattered all over the world, the young ones.” But Kalil says a lot of his elderly relatives have not been able to get out. “To become refugees,” he explained, “It’s a very hard thing to do to leave everything behind and just start fresh.”

Kalil and his wife are Kurdish and he says most of their relatives live in the northern city of Afrin, near the Turkish border.

Credit Department of Defense / AP
Map released by the Department of Defense Saturday showing the three areas targeted in the airstrike. Afrin can be seen in the top left corner of the map.

Because of that he says the latest airstrikes in Damascus and Homs, which are farther south, did not affect them.

But he says the recent Turkish invasion has been devastating and he says he and his wife were especially worried to hear the president say he wanted to pull US troops out of Syria.

“Oh my God that was devastating to hear,” said Kalil, “because that meant that Isis could come back, the Turks could go in their place and I just didn’t want that to happen.”

He says when the U.S. eventually pulls out, he hopes President Trump will have a more concrete plan in place to ensure so many years of loss and destruction are not in vain. 

RELATED — "Vermont's Congressional Delegation Reacts To Air Strikes In Syria" [VPR]

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