Pro-Assad Mobs Attack U.S., French Embassies
Syrian demonstrators incited by pro- regime television attacked the U.S. and French embassies in Damascus, climbing over compound walls and hurting three French guards as tensions mount in the Middle Eastern country.
A mob of about 300 people infiltrated the compound of the U.S. embassy today, with some violent demonstrators succeeding in climbing the roof before they were dispersed by U.S. Marines, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in Washington. Protesters wrote anti-American graffiti on the walls of the mission, broke windows and security cameras, Nuland said.
The attack followed a visit to the city of Hama last week by Robert Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria, where thousands of anti-government protesters had gathered calling for the fall of President Bashar al-Assad and his regime. In the past days, mobs threw eggs and tomatoes at the embassy.
“If they cared about their fellow Syrians, the protesters would stop throwing this food at us and donate it to those Syrians who don’t have enough to eat,” Ford said in an entry yesterday on Facebook before today’s violent escalation. “How ironic that the Syrian government lets an anti-U.S. demonstration proceed freely while their security thugs beat down olive branch-carrying peaceful protesters elsewhere.”
Ford traveled through a military and civilian checkpoint to reach the city of Hama July 7, where he spoke to more than a dozen residents and visited a hospital. The French Ambassador to Syria, Eric Chevalier, also went to Hama and visited wounded people and their families at a hospital.
The French embassy also was attacked today for the second day in a row in assaults that left three guards hurt and destroyed the French ambassador’s car, according to a statement by the French Foreign Ministry. French security fired shots in the air to disperse the mob, the statement said.
Anti-regime protests that began in March have posed the biggest challenge to Assad’s rule since he inherited power from his father, the late President Hafez al-Assad, 11 years ago. They have been part of a wave of unrest across the Middle East and North Africa this year that has unseated the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia.
Syrian forces entered the city of Homs late yesterday, killing at least three anti-government protesters and wounding dozens of demonstrators, as opposition leaders boycotted a second day of regime-sponsored reconciliation talks, Mahmoud Merhi, head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights and Ammar Qurabi, head of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria, said by telephone today.
More than 30 people were arrested in the port city of Latakia and the southern province of Daraa where the protests against Assad’s regime began four months ago, according to Merhi. Door-to-door searches were being conducted by Syrian security forces in Homs, Qurabi said.
Fifteen cars were burned and more than 28 people were wounded in the operation that followed rallies over the weekend by hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters opposing President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, Qurabi said.
The Syrian government said the U.S. envoy’s visit was an effort to “incite” unrest.
At least 20 people were killed July 8 as 500,000 people rallied in Hama to call for the fall of Assad’s government, according to Merhi and Qurabi.
Assad has blamed the protests on a foreign conspiracy, while saying that the demands of demonstrators “have merit” and that changes are needed. The crackdown in Syria has left more than 1,700 dead, according to rights groups. At least 20,000 people have been arrested since the demonstrations began, with half still in detention, Qurabi said.
Thousands of Syrians have fled across the border to Turkey to escape violence in northern towns, straining relations between the countries. A total of 8,579 Syrians remain in camps in Turkey set up by the Turkish Red Crescent in the province of Hatay, the country’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency said today in a statement. As many as 15,441 people entered Turkey during the upheaval, it said.
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