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Middle East

Internet returns across much of Syria

After a two-day blackout, communications working again in several cities including Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo.
Last Modified: 01 Dec 2012 20:42
Authorities had attributed the latest outage to a 'terrorist' attack or a technical fault

Syrian authorities have restored internet and telephone services following a two-day, nationwide communications blackout that came during some of the worst fighting to hit Damascus, the capital, since July.

The internet was back online on Saturday in most parts of the country, including in Damascus, the northern city of Aleppo, the central cities of Homs and Hama, and the coastal city of Tartus, residents in the areas told Al Jazeera.

Renesys, a US-based firm that monitors online activity, has confirmed a "largely complete" restoration of internet service in Syria.

Experts said the outage was highly likely to have been caused by the state.

President Bashar al-Assad's government has previously been accused of cutting internet and telephone connections to block opposition activist and rebel communications during the country's 20-month-old revolt.

Authorities had attributed the latest outage to a "terrorist" attack or a technical fault. The government frequently uses the term terrorist to describe opposition fighters.

"All communication lines are back up in Damascus, after maintenance works were completed," SANA state news agency said on Saturday .

Resident Abo Adnan, speaking from the capital, told Al Jazeera that the "internet has just returned [at 15:10GMT]".

It was not immediately clear if the internet was now operating countrywide.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition-linked violence-monitoring organisation, said connectivity had returned to most provinces.

Activists and human rights monitors said ordinary civilians were hardest hit by the blackout as they were unable to use mobile phones to call for emergency assistance in the event of casualties from the country's persistent violence.

The Syrian authorities said the interruption to normal service was purely for maintenance but the US said the move was a deliberate ploy to impede communications among rebels and opposition activists.

Before services resumed, state television accused a US company it did not name of blacking out the official SANA news agency's website, which was also down since Thursday.

Violence near airport

The latest development came as fighting raged on Saturday between government troops and rebels in the vicinity of Damascus airport, opposition activists reported.

Government forces were reportedly shelling the suburban district of al-Basateen in an attempt to secure areas surrounding the airport.

SANA reported a car bomb exploded in the Damascus neighborhood of Ish al-Warwar. There was no immediate word on casualties.

The fighting over the past few weeks in the capital is the most serious the city has seen since July, when rebels captured several neighborhoods before a swift government counteroffensive swept out the opposition fighters.

The violence has prompted several airlines to suspend their flights to and from Damascus in the past two days.

Spotlight
In-depth coverage of escalating violence across Syria

Syria Air, the Syrian state-owned carrier, is the only airline still operating at the Damascus airport, sources at Beirut airport told Germany's DPA news agency.

The office of Syria Air in Beirut told the agency that one of its flights had landed at Beirut airport late on Friday and that all its flights were operating normally.

Ghaidaa Abdul-Latif, the general manager of the Syrian Civil Aviation Authority, called on all foreign airlines to resume Damascus-bound flights, saying that security had been restored on the main road to the airport, Syrian state television reported.

The opposition Local Co-ordination Committees, which documents violence across Syria, said shelling by government troops had targeted the area of Beit Saham on the outskirts of Damascus, killing at least 25 people.

Rebels claimed they had downed a government jet in the area of Doumeir near the capital.

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