Reporting Maggie Newland
MIAMI (CBSMiami) - South Floridians are closely watching the situation in Syria, and opinions are divided over whether or not the U.S. should take military action.
Kazem Rifai lives in South Florida but grew up in Syria. His mother and other family members and friends still live there.
“They suffer every single day. Every single day they suffer snipers on the roof, shortage of food, shortage of water. There’s no living,” he said.
Rifai told CBS4′s Maggie Newland 80 percent of Homs, the city where his family lives, has been destroyed. Homs is about two hours away from the Damascus where the alleged chemical weapons attacks happened.
He says his family is terrified and he wants the US to take military action against Syria. Rifai listened to President Obama’s speech while working at his jewelry store in Miami.
“I respect his opinion on getting back to Congress and ask them; however, this will delay the process and probably hundreds if not thousands of people will be killed during this time,” said Rifai.
But not everyone in South Florida agrees the U.S. should strike. Protesters spelled out anti-war messages above the Palmetto urging the U.S to stay out of Syria.
“As a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, we need to stay away from Syria,” said Robert Chicvera.
Marilyn Soba added, “I don’t think it’s to our benefit. I think they should fix their own problems over there. We have our own problems that we need to take care of now.”
With passion on both sides of the issue, the decision now lies in the hands of Congress.
Senator Bill Nelson said, “I have seen the evidence and it is clear and compelling that Assad [the president of Syria] has used chemical weapons. These are weapons of mass destruction against his own people and I don’t think among the family of civilized nations that we can allow him to get away with it and as far as I’m concerned we should have struck today.”
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen says she thinks the President did the right thing by asking for Congressional approval, but she wants to see approval from the American people and the support of our allies.
“The American people do not want a prolonged war. If we’re going to do surgical strikes, military strikes that will only be a matter of days to send that message that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable, I think the American people would support it, but it’s too premature now for me to say I will vote this way or that way.”
House members will head to Washington Sunday for a classified briefing about the situation in Syria, but Congress is not back in session until September 9th so a vote won’t come for more than a week.