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Syrian Internet largely restored after blackout
War-torn country sees restoration of online access, service after two-day communications outage
Internet and telephone service were restored across much of Syria on Saturday following a two-day, nationwide communications blackout that came during some of the worst fighting to hit the capital since July.


Experts say the shutdown was likely caused by President Bashar Assad's regime, raising fears that the government is taking increasingly bold measures to cut off the country from the outside world as it tries to crush a relentless rebellion.


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Renesys, a US-based network monitoring firm that studies Internet disruptions, said in a statement yesterday that service went back up around 4:32 pm local time in Syria, describing it as a "largely complete restoration of the Syrian Internet."


Mobile telephone networks also appeared to be mostly back up yesterday. A Britain-based activist group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said it was receiving dispatches from many parts of the country. Many land lines had remained in working order.


Anti-Assad rally in Aleppo (Photo: Reuters) 


The SANA state news agency said technical teams brought both Internet and telephone services back online yesterday in Damascus and its suburbs – the flashpoints of recent fighting between government soldiers and rebels.


The communications blackout began Thursday, raising fears of a burst of fighting outside the public eye. The government and rebels have blamed each other for cutting the lines.


In the past, the regime has cut telephone lines and cellular networks in areas where military operations are under way, but the latest blackout was the first to cover the whole country since Syrian uprising began in March 2011.


Syrian rebels are fighting a 20-month-old revolt against the Assad regime. Activists say some 40,000 people have been killed in the crisis, which began with pro-democracy protests but has morphed into a civil war.


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


Syrian state TV said troops were battling fighters from the al-Qaeda-inspired Jabhat al-Nusra group in areas around the airport and that many of the rebels were killed, including two Iraqi citizens.


Syria's Information Ministry said the airport was operating as usual and that the road leading to the facility is "totally secure." The road was closed Thursday because of heavy fighting, but authorities reopened it Friday after troops secured the area, activists said.


The Observatory also reported clashes in the southern Damascus neighborhoods of Tadamon and Hajar Aswad, which have been hit by heavy fighting for weeks as the rebels try to push back into the city.



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