Bassem Mroue, Zeina Karam
The Canadian Press
July 12, 2011
The BEIRUT – Hundreds of Syrian government supporters have attacked the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, smashing windows and spray-painting walls with obscenities and graffiti that called the American ambassador a “dog.” Guards at the French Embassy fired in the air to ward off another group of protesters.
Monday’s sharp escalation in tensions followed a visit last week by the American and French ambassadors to the city of Hama, a stronghold of opposition to authoritarian President Bashar Assad. Syrian authorities were angered by the visit and American Ambassador Robert Ford’s harsh criticism afterward of the government crackdown on a four-month-old uprising. Ford’s residence was also attacked on Monday.
The U.S. and France both accused Syrian forces of being too slow to respond and demanded the government abide by its international obligations to protect diplomatic missions and allow envoys freedom of movement. The U.S. formally protested, calling the attacks “outrageous,” and saying protesters were incited by a television station heavily influenced by Syrian authorities.