US embassy shut as Syrians protest over deadly raid

by Roueida Mabardi Oct 30, 2008

DAMASCUS (AFP) – The US embassy in Syria shut its doors on Thursday as thousands marched through Damascus to protest at a deadly American raid on a village near the Iraqi border that Syria branded a barbaric act.

Security was boosted around the area housing the US embassy, which
decided to close because of the potential threat of violence, although
demonstrators stayed away from the mission.

"Colonialists, listen, the people of Syria will never be brought to
their knees," cried youths as they massed in the city centre, waving
Syrian flags and pictures of President Bashar al-Assad.

Demonstrators, including civil servants and students, waved Syrian flags and banners reading "No to American terrorism" and "American democracy -- the killing of civilians at Abu Kamal," the area targeted in Sunday's US raid.

"I want to denounce this act of American terrrorism. We are going to
liberate Palestine, and Syria will liberate its occupied land," said a
Palestinian woman named Shaimaa.

The protest wound down after several hours with no reports of violence,
with security tight in the Abu Rumaneh area where the US embassy as
well as the Saudi and Iraqi missions are located.

The US embassy announced on its website it had closed Thursday because
of a possible demonstration and warned American citizens to stay away
from the area.

It said the decision was made "due to past demonstrations which
resulted in violence and significant damage to US facilities and other
embassies," adding that the American school would also be temporarily shut.

In September 2006, a failed attack on the US embassy left four attackers and one Syrian security agent dead.

Damascus
says eight civilians, including children, were killed in a helicopter
assault on Sunday launched by US troops from Iraq on a Syrian village,
which has provoked condemnation from a number of foreign governments.

A US official in Washington has said the operation targeted a top
militant who smuggled arms and fighters into Iraq but officially the
State Department and Pentagon have declined to comment.

On Tuesday, Syria protested to the UN Security Council over what it branded a barbaric action, with the official press calling it a "cold-blooded war crime".

US commanders say Syria is the main transit point for foreign jihadists crossing into Iraq and have blamed Damascus for turning a blind eye to the problem.

However, Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie
said a controversial security pact being negotiated Washington would
prevent the US military from launching attacks on Iraq's neighbours.

"There is a very clear article in the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement)
draft that says the US cannot, should not, launch any operation from
Iraqi soil against other countries," Rubaie said on Wednesday.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad
said his government -- which has already demanded the closure of the
American school and the US cultural centre -- is awaiting an
explanation from Washington and Baghdad before deciding whether to take
further retaliatory steps.

Syria and the United States have long had a rocky relationship.

In 2004, Washington imposed sanctions against Syria, accusing it of helping insurgents in Iraq and the Shiite Hezbollah group in Lebanon.

It recalled its ambassador to Damascus after the 2005
assassination of Lebanon's former premier Rafiq Hariri, reducing US
diplomatic representation to charge d'affaires level.

On Thursday, North Korea
-- accused by Washington of helping build a nuclear reactor in Syria --
condemned Sunday's raid as an "unpardonable, inhuman" act.

Parliament in
neighbouring Jordan demanded that the international community take
measures to stop such acts which MPs said "entrench violence and
hatred" in the region.

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