Demonstrators loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have attacked the U.S. embassy compound in Damascus, breaking windows and raising a Syrian flag, witnesses told the Associated Press. "They also wrote anti-US graffiti referring to the U.S. ambassador as a 'dog,' the witnesses said." The violence follows weekend-long protests at both the French and U.S. embassy compounds after the U.S. and French ambassadors last week visited Hama, the central Syrian town where opposition to the government has a stronghold. According to a tweet from a CNN news writer, a few protesters scaled the fence outside the compound but didn't make it into the building. Syrian government forces eventually dispersed them. At the French compound today, security guards reportedly fired live ammunition in order to repel increasingly aggressive protesters. The AP reports they fired into the air.
Yesterday, U.S. ambassador Robert Ford lashed out at the government and its supporters on his Facebook page, admonishing protesters for using violence:
As I have said before, we respect the right of all Syrians – and people in all countries - to express their opinions freely and in a climate of mutual respect. We wish the Syrian government would do the same – and stop beating and shooting peaceful demonstrators. I have not seen the police assault a “mnhebak” demonstration yet. I am glad – I want all Syrians to enjoy the right to demonstrate peacefully. On July 9 a “mnhebak” group threw rocks at our embassy, causing some damage. They resorted to violence, unlike the people in Hama, who have stayed peaceful. Go look at the Ba’ath or police headquarters in Hama – no damage that I saw.