Syrian community in NJ closely watching developments

Posted: Updated:
SHORT HILLS -

Syrian natives living in New Jersey are reacting to the airstrikes conducted in the country by the United States and its allies in response to an alleged chemical attack by the Syrian government on its people.

Huda Shanawani, of Short Hills, was born in Syria and lived there until she was 16. She says her grandchildren escaped Syria as the civil war was beginning, and her 86-year-old mother left the country just two weeks ago.

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At 9 p.m. Friday, Shanawani heard a radio report the U.S. and its allies were bombing the war-torn country where her aunts, cousins, in-laws and friends still live.

"I was shocked, I was petrified, I was scared. I had no idea how bad it's going to be this time," she says. Shanawani says she raced home and turned on the news, texted friends and worried.

There's been fear and uncertainty like this for seven years, since the start of the revolution to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Shanawani and her daughter, Rana, work to help relocate Syrian refugees in the U.S, to escape the war -- Rana founded Refugee Outreach International to help those escaping the war.

When she is overwhelmed by the destruction in her homeland, Shanawani lets her feelings out by painting.

She hasn't been back to Syria since the revolution, and said she has made peace with never going back. She says she doesn't think the military strikes will stop Assad from using chemical weapons, and the war that has killed at least half a million will only claim more lives.

"I know there's no hope right now. How long is this going to last?" she says.

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