The American and French embassies in Syria were attacked by pro-government protesters on Monday. The attacks came only a few days after the American ambassador, John Ford, and his French counterpart visited a peaceful protest against the government in the city of Hama.
“We strongly condemn the Syrian government’s refusal to protect our embassy, and demand compensation for damages,” the State Department said in a statement. The French Department of Foreign Affairs noted in a statement that some of the attackers were armed and complained that the attacks occurred “in front of Syrian security forces manifestly in little hurry to stop these violent acts.” Ford, whose house in Syria was also attacked, took to Facebook to condemn the Syrian regime, writing in a post that it’s “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.”
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was angered by last week’s visit to Hama. a city which his security forces and the Syrian military withdrew from in late June, after a brutal offensive. Many believe Assad is reluctant to crush the pro-democracy protesters in Hama because his father infamously killed over 10,000 people in the city while trying to crush an uprising in 1982. Human rights groups estimate the latest violence has killed about 1,300.
Over the weekend, the government hosted a “national dialogue” intended to placate the opposition. Key opposition figures boycotted the talks, however. Explaining his opposition to the dialogue, activist Razan Zeitouneh told the British newspaper The Guardian that “while the regime is meeting — and that is what today was — there are funerals in other cities and people continue to be killed and arrested.”
Meanwhile in Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh appeared on television for the first time since he was injured in an attack on his palace last month. After the attack, Saleh sought medical attention in Saudi Arabia, and many hoped he would decide to stay in exile in Saudi Arabia, like Egypt’s Mubarak and Tunisia’s Ben Ali, other Middle Eastern autocrats overthrown in the Arab Spring. But his latest television appearance, shot in Saudi Arabia but broadcast in Yemen, indicates that he has no desire to resign.