DAMASCUS, Syria, (AP) – The U.S. Embassy in Syria warned Americans in the country to remain alert and said it could close to the public after the deadly U.S. raid near the country’s border with Iraq over the weekend.
The attack, in which U.S. troops landing in helicopters raided a compound and killed eight people, drew an angry response from Syria. The government on Tuesday ordered an American school and cultural center in the capital to shut down. Both, however, remained open on Wednesday.
The warning on the U.S. Embassy’s Web site advised Americans to avoid demonstrations and review their personal security and said events could cause it to close to the public.
“The American community in Syria should be aware that unforeseen events or circumstances may occur that could cause the U.S. Embassy in Damascus to close to the public for an unspecified period of time,” said the message, which was dated Monday but was not widely available until Wednesday.
Meanwhile, students and teachers attended classes as usual at the Damascus Community School in the capital’s upscale Maliki neighborhood despite the government’s closure order. An employee at the American cultural center, which is linked to the embassy, said it was also open.
“We have not received official notification from the Syrian government (about the closure order) and it would be premature to speculate about the embassy’s reaction,” an embassy information official said, declining to be named because he was not authorized to give official comment.
Syria’s Cabinet said the ministers of education and culture were instructed to implement the closures of the school and the cultural center, but there was no sign Wednesday that they have.
The Damascus Community School, better known in Syria as the “American School,” caters to the small American community and other foreign residents in the Syrian capital but most of its students are Syrian.
The cultural center is about 50 yards (meters) from the embassy and has a media and press section, a cultural section and a library.
U.S. officials said Sunday’s raid killed a top operative of al-Qaida in Iraq who intelligence suggested was about to conduct an attack in Iraq, but Syria and the Iraqi government criticized the raid.
Syria’s state-run newspapers, meanwhile, kept up their criticism of the United States for the attack, which they said will not make Syria change its regional policies.
“The U.S. administration could not be serious if it thinks that such terrorist behavior would make Syria accept occupation,” Al-Thawra newspaper said in an editorial in an apparent reference to U.S. troops in Iraq and Israel’s occupation of Arab territories.
It said Sunday’s attack near the Iraqi border was carried out because of Syria’s stance against the U.S. occupation of Iraq.