BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian government supporters smashed windows at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus on Monday, raised a Syrian flag and scrawled graffiti calling the American ambassador a “dog” in anger over the envoy’s visit last week to an opposition stronghold, witnesses said.
French Embassy security guards in the capital fired in the air to hold back supporters of President Bashar Assad’s regime who were also protesting the French ambassador’s visit to the same city, Hama, in central Syria. Protesters smashed embassy windows and shattered the windshield of a diplomatic SUV outside the compound. The French flag was removed and replaced with a Syrian one.
“God, Syria and Bashar. The nation that gave birth to Bashar Assad will not kneel,” read graffiti written outside the embassy. One witness said three protesters were injured when guards beat them with clubs. The witness asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation.
There was no immediate word on casualties among protesters at the American Embassy demonstration.
A U.S. official said the Obama administration will formally protest the attack and may seek compensation for damage caused when a mob breached the wall of the compound before being dispersed by Marine guards.
The official said the State Department would summon a senior Syrian diplomat on Monday to condemn the assault and demand that Syria uphold obligations to protect foreign diplomatic missions. The official said no buildings were entered and there were no injuries to embassy personnel. But the official said the attackers damaged the chancery building.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said Syrian security forces were slow to respond to the attack.
The Syrian regime called the French and American ambassadors’ visits to Hama last week interference in the country’s internal affairs and accused the envoys of undermining Syria’s stability.
The protests erupted after U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford harshly criticized the Syrian government’s crackdown on a popular uprising.
Some 1,600 civilians and 350 members of security forces have been killed since demonstrations began, activists say. Syria blames what it calls “armed gangs” and Muslim extremists for the violence.
Hiam al-Hassan, a witness, said about 300 people had gathered outside the French Embassy while hundreds others were at the American diplomatic compound.