Sept. 22, 2013

View of Damascus. (AFP Photo / Ammar al-Arbini)
View of Damascus. (AFP Photo / Ammar al-Arbini)

A mortar shell has hit the Russian embassy compound in the Syrian capital Damascus, injuring three people. The Russian Foreign Ministry and Syria’s authorities are taking measures to ensure additional security.

“On the morning of September 22, as a result of mortar shelling in the Damascus Mazraa district, one of the shells exploded on the territory of the Russian Embassy in Syria,” said Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement adding that the three injured employees do not have life-threatening conditions.

The upscale Mazraa district also houses several Syrian security institutions, a soccer stadium and nightclubs.

Earlier reports suggested that there were two shells and several people were wounded, but they were not confirmed.

“Russia’s embassy is working normally,” the embassy’s guard on duty stressed earlier, as cited by Itar-Tass.

In recent months of the ongoing civil war in Syria, rebels have launched a number of mortar shells into the center of the Syrian capital, where many embassies and senior Syrian officials are based.

Earlier in February the Russian embassy was damaged when a car bomb exploded nearby, killing 50 people on the Damascus highway. According to Russian officials no one was injured at the embassy, but the blast blew out windows in the building.

The Sunday attack comes after Syria agreed to Russia’s proposal to put its chemical arsenal under international control for further destruction. The Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moualem wrote to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to notify it of Syria’s decision to join the Chemical Weapons Convention. President Bashar Assad personally vowed to hand over the country’s chemical arms to be destroyed.

The US has threated to use military force in Syria “to deter” a repetition of such incidents if Damascus fails to submit a complete list of chemical arms within a week, in accordance with the chemical weapons convention. An international response will follow to conform with UN Charter Chapter 7, “action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security” if other measures fail, US Secretary of State John Kerry said.

Damascus has already begun submitting information on its arms to the Organisation for the Prohibition of the Chemical Weapons (OPCW), meeting the first deadline of a US-Russia brokered deal to hand over the arms under international control.

However on Sunday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the US is trying to ‘pressure’ Russia into approving a UN resolution that would allow military intervention, saying that in exchange they will keep working on Syria’s entry into the OPCW.

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