WASHINGTON -- American diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus are shaken, but not wounded, after their heavily secured compound was stormed earlier today by a mob of angry protesters.
"A television station that is heavily influenced by Syrian authorities encouraged this violent demonstration," a State Department spokesperson said in a statement to Reuters.
The statement continued, "We strongly condemn the Syrian government's refusal to protect our embassy, and demand compensation for damages. We call on the Syrian government to fulfill its obligations to its own citizens as well."
"We consider it pretty f**king severe," said one person inside the compound at the time, via email to The Huffington Post. "It was a rough day. Still is."
No Americans were wounded in the assault, according to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as individuals within the embassy were unauthorized to comment.
The Syrian attackers managed to penetrate several layers of embassy security by climbing a high fence that guards the fortress-like compound. Some managed to get onto the roof of a few of the embassy buildings and rip down embassy signs, replacing the American flag with a Syrian one.
"I watched a guy with a two-by-four try to break one of the windows of [the] Ambassador's office," the witness said.
The attack on the embassy comes amid growing diplomatic discord between the United States and Syria, and soon after American Ambassador Robert Ford paid a visit last week to the northern city of Hama, where anti-government protests have grown despite a heavy crackdown.
Over the weekend, the State Department issued a rebuke to the Syrian ambassador in the U.S. after reports emerged that he may have participated in efforts to suppress or monitor anti-government protests by Syrians within the United States.
The main defenders of the embassy compound are Syrian nationals who patrol the streets outside and control access to the building.
It is also guarded by a small contingent of Marines, which represent an internal layer of security and never leave the compound armed. The outer perimeter is heavily guarded by Syrian security forces, who have foiled past attempts to attack the compound, including an attempted car bomb in 2006. This has raised questions about how an unarmed crowd was able to penetrate such tight security, and led to early suspicions that the Syrian regime allowed the breach to occur.
According to the witness, the Marines managed to secure the compound without opening fire or directly confronting the individuals who had made their way onto the roof.
Eventually, the intruders left on their own, the insider told HuffPost.
The Associated Press reported that the embassy of France and the residence of the American Ambassador were also targeted in the assaults yesterday.
A State Department spokesman was not immediately available for comment.