As violence mounts and US intervention appears imminent, local Syrians watch and wait

TAMPA - As tension mounts over whether the United States should intervene in Syria, reaction among Syrian Americans in Tampa Bay is mixed.

Some protested Thursday night in downtown Tampa. Others want a strike on President Bashar Al-Assad's forces as soon as possible.

"They will never stop. If there is any human being who believes they will stop killing, absolutely not, they are wrong," explained Fisal Houssein.

As usual, Houssein cooked up Syrian food in his St. Petersburg restaurant, Beirut Cafe, on Friday afternoon. His nights, however, are far from routine as worries about his family's safety continue to race through his mind.

Estimates show more than 100,000 casualties from the civil war, even before reports of chemical weapons.

Hussein is concerned about the human death toll with an American strike, but without one, he believes the outcome will be even worse.

"There's no other choice. If they do this now, they save lives later," Hussein said. "The people will respect America."

USF student, Noor Shakfeh, returned from Syria in March after a humanitarian trip to deliver supplies to refugees. Her family continues to report stories of people eating half of a potato for an entire day's meal.

"There are 20,000 child amputees. Children haven't been to school in 3 years. They don't have access to clean water," Shakfeh said.

When she and her younger brother, Khalid, returned to Tampa, they say US Special Operations Command called for information, asking about what they saw on their trip. The two asked for questions in writing, wary of SOCom's intention.

Shakfeh says SOCom refused their request, and never called them again. She plans to return to Syria in December, citing one million child refugees, adding to the total of 6 million displaced Syrians.

"I'm helping people who are starving and who need help. That's not a crime," Shakfeh said.

"I choose to put myself at risk because I think that there is a cause that's more important than me."


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