The U.S. "absolutely" needs to go to Syria and attempt to stop the bloody conflict raging across the region, says a Hamilton man who spent two weeks this summer giving aid and medical attention to Syrian refugees.

"I think Obama's actions are long overdue," said Dr. Raza Khan, who travelled to northern Jordan in June with his two teenage kids and two others as part of the Help 4 Syria project.

The group raised $116,000 in southern Ontario to bring 3,045 aid packages to Irbid and Ramtha, two communities in Jordan where many Syrian refugees are staying. Khan says he understands the hesitation from some fronts to send troops into Syria, given the "powder keg" that's festering underneath the conflict.

"But we can't just stand by," he said. "Something just has to give."

Not all Hamiltonians feel that way. A group of protesters concerned about Western countries' involvement in Syria's civil war trailed behind Monday's Labour Day parade in Hamilton with signs in hand, chanting "hands off Syria."

Obama says international community 'cannot be silent'

A Senate panel has voted to give U.S. President Barack Obama the authority to use military force against Syria in response to what the White House claims was a deadly chemical weapons attack carried out by the Syrian regime.

The resolution passed by a 10-7 vote, aided by support of three Republicans, including Senator John McCain. The committee's vote was the first in a series, as the president's request makes its way through Senate and House committees before coming before the two chambers for a final vote.


This group of protesters trailed behind Hamilton's labour day parade on Monday, chanting "hands off Syria." (Sunnie Huang/CBC)

The Obama administration still needs to persuade a Republican-dominated House of Representatives that has opposed almost everything on Obama's agenda since the party seized the majority more than three years ago.

Failing to respond to last month's deadly chemical attacks would damage the credibility of the international community and increase the risk for other such attacks, U.S. President Barack Obama said during a news conference in Sweden Wednesday.

"In the face of such barbarism, the international community cannot be silent," he said from Stockholm, where he was meeting with the Swedish prime minister before heading to the G20 meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia.

"If we don't [act], we are effectively saying that even though we may condemn [the chemical attacks] and issue resolutions …somebody who is not shamed by resolutions can continue to act with impunity," he said.

Children's joy extinguished

Khan says that no matter what happens, there will be a "lost generation" of children in Syria considering the amount of suffering many have endured. That was evident when some Help 4 Syria volunteers gave a group of kids crayons and paper and asked them to "draw something from your life," while on the aid mission.

"They were drawings a normal ten year old doesn't draw," he said. "They're showing blood, they're showing bullets being fired." The usual smiles found on children's faces while drawing were absent, Khan says.

"That normal light of happiness and joy you see in a child was just extinguished."

Time and time again, he heard the same things from refugees: "They want their freedom," Khan said. "They want to raise their children in a healthy environment, just like Canada."

"They keep asking 'why is it taking so long for help to arrive?'"

Russian President Vladimir Putin, one of Assad's most vocal supporters, warned the West against taking one-sided action in Syria, although he told The Associated Press that Russia had frozen new shipments to Syria of an air defence missile system.

U.S. officials say any action will be limited in scope, not aimed at helping to remove Assad. During the press conference Wednesday, Obama said that a military strike would only be a first step and that further work would have to be done to find a solution to "underlying problems" in Syria.

Putin said Russia "doesn't exclude" supporting a UN resolution on punitive military strikes if it is proved that Damascus used poison gas on its own people, but he questioned alleged evidence released by Britain, the United States and France as part of their efforts to build international support.

Any proof needs to go before the Security Council, Putin told The Associated Press. "And it ought to be convincing. It shouldn't be based on some rumours and information obtained by special services through some kind of eavesdropping, some conversations and things like that."

More than 100,000 dead, 2 million fled Syria

Since the outbreak of the Syria conflict in March 2011, the two sides have fought to a stalemate, though the Assad regime has retaken the offensive in recent months. Rebel fighters control large rural stretches in northern and eastern Syria, while Assad is holding on to most of the main urban areas.

The Syrian conflict, which began as a popular uprising against Assad in March 2011, later degenerated into a civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people.

The UN refugee agency said Tuesday that the number of Syrians who have fled the country has surpassed the two million mark.

Along with more than four million people displaced inside Syria, this means more than six million Syrians have been uprooted, out of an estimated population of 23 million.