Southern California Syrian's Family Torn Apart in Ongoing Conflict

By Hetty Chang
|  Thursday, Aug 29, 2013  |  Updated 10:27 AM PDT
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Hassan Twiet, Syrian American, lost seven members of his family due to a suspected chemical attack allegedly by the Bashar Assad regime. Twiet refers to the regime as the epitome of evil and like other Syrian Americans, hopes the U.S. will take action. Hetty Chang reports for NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Aug. 28, 2013.

Hetty Chang

Hassan Twiet, Syrian American, lost seven members of his family due to a suspected chemical attack allegedly by the Bashar Assad regime. Twiet refers to the regime as the epitome of evil and like other Syrian Americans, hopes the U.S. will take action. Hetty Chang reports for NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Aug. 28, 2013.

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From his school yard at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, Hassan Twiet admits he can't think of much else other than the ongoing conflicts in Syria.

Twiet, the president of the Syrian-American Council's Los Angeles chapter, lost seven relatives -- members of his sister's husband's family -- in a suspected chemical attack, allegedly by the Bashar Assad regime.

"I will assure you, if we don't stop Assad today, he will use it tomorrow," he said of deadly chemicals allegedly used to attack Syrians. "And mark my words, he will use it again if we don't stop him."

He said his family used to spend Friday nights together among good neighbors and friends. But now, the only gatherings are centered around grief and anguish, and tragedy that has already hit his family once before.

"From the regime itself in 1982, I lost 23 members of our immediate family," he said. "Our home that was 375 years old got destroyed, our memories got destroyed."

Twiet, who left Syria decades ago, hadn't heard from his sister until a phone call Wednesday morning. She had fled to their mother's home before last week's attack on Jobar, Syria.

"That was my sister," he said. "She said they're OK.

"When you hear the voices they're OK, it brings a smile and happiness and tranquility. But still, the worry is there because they are in the midst of it."

Activists accused Assad's forces of a nerve gas attack in Jobar and other suburbs, killing between 500 and more than 1,000 people, including Twiet's seven relatives.

Twiet believes the U.S. can and should intervene in the 2 1/2-year-old civil war by any means necessary. It is a sentiment shared by other Americans who have watched turmoil in their own native countries.

"Obviously, it's getting out of hand and getting way to chaotic and no one is doing anything about it," said Daniya Haji, a Pakistani-American. "So, I feel like the U.S. with all the power they have they can intervene and have change in the Syrian regime."

Some polls suggest that the use of chemical weapons in Syria changes Americans’ opinion about military involvement. Absent chemical weapons, the polling trend is decidedly against Syrian involvement.

In May, a CNN/ORC International survey found 66 percent of those asked said the U.S. military action would be "justified," if convincing evidence of chemical weapons is presented.

A Pew Research Poll from mid-June found that 70 percent of those asked oppose sending "arms and military supplies" to anti-government groups in Syria. But that same poll found that 49 percent feel the U.S. has a "moral obligation to do what it can to stop the violence in Syria."

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