Protesters try to storm U.S. embassy


DAMASCUS, Reuters

Syrian riot police used truncheons and tear gas to keep an angry crowd from storming the U.S. embassy in Damascus on Friday in a protest over the deaths of dozens of Arabs in a week of clashes with Israeli forces.

Many of the demonstrators and some police were reported wounded or arrested in the second protest this week in Damascus, where anti-American protests previously had been rare.

Friday’s action was one of several demonstrations staged in the Arab world on a “day of rage” against the killing of around 70 Palestinians and Arabs by Israeli forces since Sept. 28.

Scores of riot police blocked the road to the U.S. embassy in the fashionable Abu Remmaneh district to keep the crowd of Syrians and Palestinians from reaching the compound. Some in the crowd, cursing the United States and Israel, hurled stones at police, who fought back with truncheons and tear gas.

The protesters demanded that Palestinian President Yasser Arafat suspend peace talks with Israel.

“We will sacrifice our lives for Jerusalem. We want to tell Arafat that the Zionists don’t know what peace means, they only listen to the language of guns,” said Palestinian Fahed Sharouf.

Syria and Lebanon are the only two of its Arab neighbors that have not signed peace deals with Israel.

Several cars were damaged during the anti-U.S. riots before the security forces managed to contain the crowd. The U.S. embassy was closed. The State Department, anticipating violent demonstrations, on Thursday issued an advisory shutting U.S. missions in the Arab world for five days.

The protesters, shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest), were kept some 500 meters from the embassy.

Riot police sealed off all roads leading to the embassy, the American cultural center and the American school.