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Some Syrian-Americans Aren’t Convinced Assad Regime Responsible For Chemical Weapons Attack

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An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube by the Local Committee of Arbeen on Aug. 21, 2013 allegedly shows Syrians covering a mass grave containing bodies of victims that Syrian rebels claim were killed in a toxic gas attack by pro-government forces in eastern Ghouta and Zamalka, on the outskirts of Damascus. (credit: DSK/AFP/Getty Images)

An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube by the Local Committee of Arbeen on Aug. 21, 2013 allegedly shows Syrians covering a mass grave containing bodies of victims that Syrian rebels claim were killed in a toxic gas attack by pro-government forces in eastern Ghouta and Zamalka, on the outskirts of Damascus. (credit: DSK/AFP/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Some eastern Pennsylvania residents of Syrian descent say they aren’t convinced that the government was responsible for what authorities believe to have been a chemical weapons attack and object to the idea of U.S. military action in their homeland.

Aziz Wehbey, head of the Syrian American Society in the Lehigh Valley, said his group staged an impromptu protest Tuesday night in Allentown and planned another event at noon Friday in the city.

He said he didn’t believe it would make sense for the government to launch an attack of the kind that occurred on Aug. 21 with UN inspectors already in Damascus investigating an earlier report of chemical weapons use.

“Would that make sense that the regime would do such a thing? No, absolutely no,” he said, saying he believed the government was being framed by opponents, whom he equated to the Sept. 11 hijackers.

Any U.S. military strike of the type reportedly being contemplated by the Obama administration to deter future chemical weapons attacks would further fracture Syria, he said.

“We still have half of the country in a stable condition,” he said. “If we launch weapons on Syria … it will make a bigger war in the region.”

Ayoub Jarrouj, president of the Syrian Arab American Charity Association in Allentown, said he would condemn the government only if it is proven without any doubt to have been behind the attack.

“We don’t know who is telling the truth and who is not,” said Jarrouj, adding that he isn’t a supporter of the government but doesn’t favor the opposition either. He said he considers himself a supporter of the Syrian people dying in the conflict.

“I don’t want the Syrian people to be killed by either side,” he said, declining comment on what he thinks the United States should do.

Syrian activists claim up to 1,300 people were in the Aug. 21 attack.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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