shayrat airfield damage 1
Aftermath of US strike on Syria airbase
01:04 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

A chemical attack on a rebel-held town in Syria prompted the US to target a regime airbase

Survivors of the attack tell CNN they welcome the intervention but fear revenge

Bana Alabed, young girl who fled Aleppo, called for an end to all wars

CNN  — 

Survivors of the chemical attack on a Syrian town say they are “happy and … afraid,” after the US ordered a missile strike in response.

Hadi Al Abdallah, an activist journalist, was in Khan Sheikhoun when the bombs were dropped in the attack that left more than 80 people – including 26 children – dead earlier this week.

“We’re surprised, we’re happy and we’re afraid,” he told CNN, adding: “We’re afraid that the regime will take its revenge on civilians, as is its nature.”

Horrific footage of the dead and dying from Khan Sheikhoun prompted US President Donald Trump to take action, a senior administration official told CNN.

“No child of God should ever suffer such horror,” Trump said late Thursday, after ordering the strike, in which 59 Tomahawk missiles targeted Shayrat airfield to punish the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Six people were killed in that attack, according to Syria’s General Command.

“We’re all very optimistic about this airstrike,” said Alaa Al-Youssef, another resident of Khan Sheikhoun. “But we’re surprised that they’re saying this is a one-off strike.”

“It’s true that they destroyed an airbase but there are many more airbases out there,” he added in a call with CNN.

Al Abdallah called on the international community to ensure that Assad is brought to justice for attacks on civilians.

“We want Bashar al-Assad to be held accountable for all of his crimes, no matter the weapons that he uses,” he said.

The same sense of wariness was echoed by other Syrians, some of whom have left the country since the civil war began over six years ago.

Abd Alfattah Sheikhomar, a Syrian activist now living in Turkey, left Aleppo last December after the city suffered a months-long government siege.

“If Trump wanted to save Syria he would deal with Assad directly,” Sheikhomar wrote on Facebook Friday. “Instead he’s going to fight Russia and Iran and others on Syrian soil with a loose plan, killing more Syrians, destroying more Syrian land?”

“Don’t get too hopeful. We all want this to be over. But seriously, no one bombs for peace and Assad is still walking around a free man,” he added.

Sheikhomar told CNN in a message on Facebook that many of his friends were taking to social media to post about the US raid on Shayrat – and not all of their messages were enthusiastic.

“Everyone says these raids are not enough to eliminate the biggest head of terrorism, Bashar al-Assad,” Sheikhomar said.

One day after she called on Trump to stop the war in Syria, 7-year-old Bana Alabed took to Twitter to react to the air raid. Her response was mixed.

“I am a Syrian child who suffered under Basha al Asad & Putin. I welcome Donald Trump action against the killers of my people,” Alabed, who became the face of the Syrian children during the Aleppo siege, said.

But, three hours later, Alabed clarified that she didn’t condone the start of World War III.

“We don’t want WORLD WAR THREE. we don’t want the war in Syria. let’s stand together & end all wars,” she tweeted. Alabed now lives with her family in Turkey.

Raed Al Saleh, head of the volunteer rescue group Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the “White Helmets,” also responded to the strike on social media.

“America’s targeting of Shayrat airport from which the airplanes that hit Khan Sheikhoun with chemical rockets exited is a step in the direction to stop the killing of civilians in Syria,” Al Saleh tweeted. “But this step won’t stop the killing of civilians.”

White Helmets rescue workers have saved the lives of thousands of Syrian civilians over the course of the civil war.

Abdulkafi Alhamdo, who fled Aleppo with his family to the northern countryside of Idlib last year, told CNN that he woke up this morning to the news of the strikes. He said the strikes didn’t shock him, suggesting that they were just a political move.

“What’s the benefit of such strikes?” Alhamdo asked in a conversation on WhatsApp. “It’s a political message, yes. It’s a warning message, yes. But it’s really a popularity message. Trump is trying to have popularity with Americans by making these strikes.”

“But they didn’t achieve what Syrian civilians, what these innocent people, want.”

CNN’s AJ Willingham contributed to this report.