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Local Syrian Population Reacts To Latest Violence

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By Syma Chowdhry

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (CBS) – The images out of Syria are disconcerting for many local Syrian immigrants.

Allentown has one of the largest populations of Syrian-Americans in the United States.

Immigrants like Mary Jarrah, who has been in this country for more than 40 years and owns Damascus Restaurant.

She’s from the area of Syria dubbed the “Christian Valley” and still has family living there.

Mary says the valley is normally isolated from any violence – until last week, when 20 members from that village were killed by rebels.

“I’m worried about my country,” Mary says.

She and many others Eyewitness News spoke to are pro-government and think last week’s chemical weapons attack was the rebels’ doing.

Mary believes the news is being misconstrued in the U.S. She’s also scared that if the government gets overthrown, someone from the rebel group will take over.

Bill Hanna moved to America from Syria 20 years ago, and he says the rebels aren’t Syrian and don’t have the country’s best interests at heart.

“They hate everybody,” he says. “They come from Afghanistan, they come from Libya…”

Many Syrians in Allentown, including Bill and Mary, attend the St. George’s Orthodox Church, which has turned into a communications center for those looking to send help overseas such as money, food and medicine. And on Friday, protestors will march from St. George’s to City Hall.

Still, regardless of their differing views, one thing most Syrians can agree on is that they want peace for their country.

“We want the country to come back, the way it was before,” Hanna says.

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