UK & World News
Syria: Internet Cut Off Amid Airport Clashes
Syria has been cut off from the internet amid fierce fighting in the capital which saw rebels claiming they have blocked access to the capital city's airport.
The unprecedented nationwide blackout was reported by two US-based internet-monitoring companies and confirmed by activists in the country.
Renesys, a network security firm that studies web disruptions, said Syria effectively disappeared from the internet at 12.26pm local time while Akamai Technologies, which distributes content on the internet, confirmed the development.
It came amid clashes in Damascus which saw Syrian rebel fighters fire mortars at the runways of the international airport - blocking the road leading to the capital, according to a rebel Jund Allah brigade fighter, who uses the name Abu Omar.
Although the report could not be verified, he said fighters were not inside the airport but were able to prevent access in and out of it.
"No one can come in or out of the airport," he said.
Activists earlier said the airport road had been closed by fighting.
Dubai's Emirates airline said it was suspending flights to Damascus with immediate effect and Egypt Air said it had cancelled its Friday flight because of the "deteriorating situation" around the airport.
A spokesman for the rebel military council in Damascus, Moataz al Qanawati, said he had no information about attacks on the airport but that insurgents in the area "have the capability of striking the airport".
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors violence in Syria, said there had been clashes on the airport road but that rebels were not close to the airport itself.
Reports of an internet shutdown could mean that the embattled regime of Bashar al Assad has cut off the networks as he cracks down on rebels in the war-wracked country.
Renesys said in a blog posting that its monitoring showed "Syria's international internet connectivity shut down".
"In the global routing table, all 84 of Syria's IP address blocks have become unreachable, effectively removing the country from the internet," the company said.
Earlier, activists in Syria said internet and mobile telephone communications were cut in Damascus and land lines were barely functioning.
The Local Coordination Committees, a leading network of activists on the ground, said: "Communications and internet service have been cut in most parts of Damascus and its suburbs, raising fears that the criminal Syrian regime is up to something."
Fighting between rebels and troops is currently focused around Damascus, with the army trying to dislodge rebels who have set up rear bases on the outskirts of the capital.