Local Syrian-Americans are feeling everything from hope to skepticism concerning President Barack Obama's authorization of military aid to Syrian rebels after U.S. officials said Bashar al-Assad's regime crossed a "red line" by using chemical weapons on its own people.
Many Syrian-Americans have long been calling for greater U.S. intervention in the conflict, which began with a popular uprising in March 2011 and evolved into a bloody civil war that has reportedly killed more than 90,000 people.
U.S. officials have said the new aid would include weapons and ammunition. U.S. aid has so far been limited to providing the opposition with humanitarian aid and non-lethal assistance.
Hussam Ayloush, national chairman of the Syrian-American Council and a board member of the organization's Los Angeles chapter, said the news has brought new hope for many Syrians and Syrian-Americans.
"I've spoken to other Syrians there and there's certainly a ray of hope being felt after feeling the whole world has forgotten them as they are being slaughtered, murdered every day," he said. "They feel that maybe the world is paying attention to us."
Ayloush said he always has hope and has been inspired by the resilience of the Syrian people, who have remained committed to their freedom as they were on the first day of the revolution despite the brutality of the Assad regime.
With roughly 100,000 killed and many others missing, Ayloush said, "if they can still be hopeful, I can't but be hopeful."
But other Syrian-Americans were more skeptical. Dr. Saleh Kholaki, a Duarte-based dentist who lives in La Crescenta, said he believes the help -- if it even comes -- could be too little too late.
"In my humble opinion, I still think (military aid) is not going to happen," Kholaki, a board member of the Los Angeles chapter of the Syrian-American Council, said. "It's just statement after statement to give anesthesia or painkiller to a patient ... They should have done a no-fly zone and armed the rebels a long time ago."
Kholaki, who has relatives in Syria, said arms sent by the U.S. would probably not be as helpful as the amount of military support Russia and Iran have given to the Assad regime. And since citizens who are fleeing their homes and are being forced to leave their own cities are still being shelled and bombed from the air, Kholaki said a no-fly zone is crucial to protecting civilian lives on the ground.
"I feel hopeless and helpless. I don't know what took so long" for the U.S., Kholaki said. "Is that because we don't have oil in the region, or is it because Israel wants Assad in power?"
Israel, a close U.S. ally, has repeatedly expressed concerns that a change in regime in Syria could further harm Arab-Israeli relations and regional stability.
Meanwhile, Rep. Adam Schiff, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said he has "considerable concerns" about the prospect of the U.S. getting further involved in the conflict. Schiff, D-Burbank, said he prefers the U.S. assist the rebels by degrading Assad's chemical weapons capacity and his ability to deliver them.
"I think providing a small amount of arms won't change the course of the conflict and may only feed the cries to do more -- to establish a no-fly zone, provide an even larger quantity of arms to what is now essentially a sectarian civil war," Schiff said. "You have Hezbollah arrayed on one side (the Assad regime), elements of al-Qaida on another. We should be very wary of entangling ourselves in this fight."
But Hanadi Alwan, a mother of four who lives in Claremont, said she was happy that the U.S. has admitted what many have suspected all along -- that the Assad regime has been using a small amount of chemical weapons on its people -- and feels it will give the U.S. more credibility to acknowledge and act against injustice. But she, too, is concerned that any weapons the U.S. will provide won't be enough to stop the bloodshed.
"We don't want arming the opposition so they can just kill each other; we want them to arm the opposition so they will be able to finish the war," she said.
Meanwhile, Alwan said she's increasingly concerned about the safety of her own daughter Leila, 23, who is in a village in northwestern Syria volunteering to help displaced children.
"I feel like it's going to get uglier," she said. "Now the Assad side, they're going to be more brutal to finish the war as soon as possible and the opposition will be stronger, so there will be a lot of fighting."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.