Syria cuts internet and cellphone services

The Syrian government shut down the internet across the country and cut cellphone services in select areas on Thursday as rebels and government troops waged fierce battles near the capital's airport, forcing international airlines to suspend flights, activists said.

The internet blackout, confirmed by two US-based companies that monitor online connectivity, is unprecedented in Syria's 20-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Regime forces have suffered a string of tactical defeats in recent weeks – losing air bases and other strategic facilities – and the blackout may be an attempt by the government dull any further rebel offensives by hampering communications.

Authorities often cut phone lines and internet access in select areas where regime forces are conducting major military operations to disrupt rebel communications. Activists in Syria reached on Thursday by satellite telephone confirmed the blackout.

Renesys, a US-based network security firm that studies internet disruptions, said in a statement that Syria effectively disappeared from the internet at 12.26pm local time. "In the global routing table, all 84 of Syria's IP address blocks have become unreachable, effectively removing the country from the internet," Renesys said.


Akamai Technologies, another US-based company that distributes content on the internet, also confirmed a complete outage for Syria. With pressure building against the regime on several fronts, rebels have been trying to push their way back into the capital after being largely driven out after a July offensive into Damascus.

Opposition fighters were battling government troops near the city's international airport on Thursday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, prompting the military to close the road to the facility.

Both the Dubai-based airline Emirates and EgyptAir have temporarily suspended flights to Damascus. A senior EgyptAir official said the flight to Damascus scheduled for Friday has been canceled in light of the deteriorating conditions at Damascus airport. The official said an emergency meeting is scheduled to look into whether to halt all flights to the Syrian capital.

The airport lies on the capital's southern outskirts, and the surrounding districts have been strongholds of support for the rebels since the start of the uprising.

Government warplanes struck the rebellious districts around Damascus on Thursday, including Daraya, where fighting has raged for days, as rebels fight their way into the capital, the Observatory said.

The revolt in Syria began with peaceful protests but turned into a civil war after the government waged a brutal crackdown on dissent. Activists say more than 40 000 people have been killed.

In the country's south, rebels bombed the house of a top member of the country's ruling Baath party Thursday, killing him and his three body guards, activists said. The bombing took place in Daraa, where the uprising began in March 2011.

Since then, rebels have frequently targeted regime figures and military commanders. The increasing frequency of bombings, a hallmark of Islamic extremists like al-Qaeda, has led to concerns about the growing role of Islamist militants in the civil war. – Sapa-AP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

The blankest spot on Trump’s world map

In his new book of his time in the Trump White House, former US National Security Adviser John Bolton shares Trump’s very few thoughts on Africa

Zimbabwe: What is the current status of the Torture Docket case?

International crimes must be prosecuted and domestic jurisdictions are well placed to do this. Domestic prosecutions based on universal jurisdiction are on the rise

Russia is not Putin, as he would have citizens  and the world believe

The president would everyone believe Russia is a democracy but his army occupies regions  and opposition parties are suppressed

Bloody alliance has created a new cradle of facism

The West failed to defend the Arab Spring. It can’t afford to let Syria’s dictator crush the Kurds

Key developments in Turkey’s offensive in Syria

Three offensive attacks against the Kurds have come since 2016

For Syria Kurds, the end of autonomy?

As President Bashar al-Assad's forces deploy towards the northern border, is the Kurdish minority giving up on autonomy?
Advertising

New education policy on gender violence released

Universities and other higher education institutions have to develop ways of preventing or dealing with rape and other damaging behaviour

Cambridge Food Jozini: Pandemic or not, the price-gouging continues

The Competition Commission has fined Cambridge Food Jozini for hiking the price of its maize meal during April

Sekhukhune’s five-year battle for water back in court

The residents of five villages are calling for the district municipal manager to be arrested

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday