Saturday, April 19, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Internet service goes out across Syria

BEIRUT — Internet service went down Thursday across Syria and international flights were canceled at the Damascus airport when a road near the facility was closed by heavy fighting in the country’s civil war.

Activists said President Bashar Assad’s regime pulled the plug on the Internet, perhaps in preparation for a major offensive. Cellphone service also went out in Damascus and parts of central Syria, they said. The government blamed rebel fighters for the outages.

With pressure building against the regime on several fronts and government forces on their heels in the battle for the northern commercial hub of Aleppo, rebels have recently begun pushing back into Damascus after largely being driven out of the capital following a July offensive. One Damascus resident reported seeing rebel forces near a suburb of the city previously deemed to be safe from fighting.

The Internet outage, confirmed by two U.S.-based companies that monitor online connectivity, is unprecedented in Syria’s 20-month-old uprising against Assad, which activists say has killed more than 40,000 people.

Regime forces suffered a string of tactical defeats in recent weeks, losing air bases and other strategic facilities. The government may be trying to blunt additional rebel offensives by hampering communications.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned what she called the regime’s “assault” on Syrians’ ability to communicate with each other and express themselves. She said the move spoke to a desperate attempt by Assad to cling to power.

Syrian authorities often cut phone and Internet service in select areas to disrupt rebel communications when regime forces are conducting major operations.

The government sent mixed signals about the Internet outage but denied it was nationwide. The pro-regime TV station Al-Ikhbariya quoted Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi as saying that “terrorists” have targeted Internet cables, interrupting service in several cities.

Separately, state-run TV said the outage was due to a technical failure that affected some provinces, adding that technicians were trying to fix it.

Activists in Syria, reached by satellite telephones unaffected by the outage, confirmed the communications problems.

A young Syrian businessman who lives in an upscale neighborhood of Damascus, which some refer to as part of “the green zone” because it has remained relatively safe, sent a text message to an Associated Press reporter Thursday that said the Internet had been cut in his area and that mobile phone service was cutting out.

He said he was driving Wednesday through the Damascus suburb of Aqraba, near the airport, and saw dozens of rebel fighters for the first time in the area, riding in pickup trucks and motorcycles, and wielding AK-47s.

Their presence so close to the “green zone” may have led to the Internet being cut, said the resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared government reprisal. He said the military was positioned a few hundred meters away from the rebel fighters and had built large speed bumps to enclose the area.

The opposition said the Internet blackout was an ominous sign that the regime was preparing a major offensive.

“I fear that cutting the Internet may be a prelude to a massacre in Damascus,” said Adib Shishakly, a Syrian opposition figure from Cairo, Egypt. “The regime feels it is being choked off by rebels who are closing in on the capital from its suburbs. It’s a desperate move; they are trying to sever communications between activists.”

Renesys, a U.S.-based network security firm that studies Internet disruption, said in a statement that Syria effectively disappeared from the Internet at 12:26 p.m. 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. It added that the main autonomous system responsible for Internet in the country is the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment, and that “all of their customer networks are currently unreachable.”

Akamai Technologies Inc., another U.S.-based company that distributes content on the Internet, also confirmed the complete outage.

Jim Cowie, the chief technology officer at Renesys, said the abruptness of the outage suggested it wasn’t due to a severed cable. Syria has several cables that connect it to the outside world, and all of them would have had to be cut at once for a complete outage. A power outage or an intentional shutdown at central Syrian telecommunications facilities is a more likely cause, he said.

“We saw everything go in three to four minutes, which looks like a light switch,” Cowie said.

He said the profile of the outage was similar to what the Egyptian government did in January 2011 during the Arab Spring uprising that toppled longtime leader Hosni Mubarak. Egypt switched off the Internet for five days, halting businesses, banking and – at the height of the demonstrations – the ability of protest leaders to organize and communicate with each other.

Bahrain’s Sunni rulers also jammed cellphones during the military offensive on the protesters’ encampment in the capital of Manama in March 2011. Internet service remained at a crawl when the Bahrain’s military stormed the city’s Pearl Square – the headquarters of the revolt – after weeks of street protests.

Ann Harrison, deputy program director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said in a statement that the group worried the communications were cut in Syria “to shield the truth of what is happening in the country from the outside world.”

Thursday’s violence appeared to be focused on southern suburbs near the Damascus international airport, forcing the military to shut the road to the facility. The surrounding districts have been strongholds of rebel support since the uprising began.

At the United Nations, the secretary-general’s office said at least four soldiers assigned to the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights were injured in the crossfire on the airport road as their unit was heading out for a routine rotation of forces.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the regime has started a major offensive around the airport where rebels have been particularly active in recent weeks.

Abdul-Rahman, who relies on a network of activists in Syria, said large convoys of government reinforcements were seen heading south toward the airport, which is 25 kilometers (15 miles) southeast of Damascus. The fighting was concentrated in and around the suburbs of Aqraba and Beit Saham, he said.

The Syrian Information Ministry later said the airport road was secure after attacks by “terrorist groups” on motorists, according to state TV. It was not immediately clear whether the road had been reopened.

The fighting prompted both Emirates airline and EgyptAir to cancel flights to Damascus.

Despite months of sporadic fighting and deteriorating security in Damascus, the airport has remained open.

But EgyptAir said in a statement that the airline will halt all flights to Damascus and Aleppo starting Friday, until further notice. EgyptAir head Rushdi Zakaria said the decision was due to deteriorating security conditions in Syria.

Syrian TV also said government forces were chasing “al-Qaida elements” around Damascus, mostly in the eastern suburbs of Douma and the southern suburb of Daraya.

The Observatory said the regime used warplanes to hit districts including Daraya, where fighting has raged for days.

The operation around Damascus comes days after rebels made significant advances in the area. Last week, they captured a major helicopter base just outside the capital.

In the southern city of Daraa, where the uprising began, rebels detonated a car bomb near the house of a senior member of the country’s ruling Baath Party, killing him and his three bodyguards, activists said. Rebels frequently target regime figures and military commanders.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Solano unemployment inches downward

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1

 
Transplant recipients talk about their best gifts

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Implementing Common Core: A work in progress

By Mayrene Bates | From Page: A2

Police release name of woman found dead in Fairfield canal

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Spering, Bertani spar over fighting crime

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 5 Comments | Gallery

 
Fairfield council candidates weigh in on crime

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Jury acquits substitute teacher in child abuse case

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A4

 
Five homes featured on Symphony Home Tour

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

Congregation invites public to Easter music, message

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
 
Local woman helps spread Easter joy

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B12 | Gallery

Weather for April 19, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B13

 
.

US / World

California farmers to get more water

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Teen sentenced in Oakland toddler’s killing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

More Latino than white students admitted to UC

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
PG&E to be arraigned in fatal pipeline blast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Mom and son who died in San Francisco fire ID’d

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
3 alleged gang members convicted of murder

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
From Clinton to Obama, many parallels

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Study: Half of jailed NYC youths have brain injury

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Easter on 4/20, pot holy day; pastors reach out

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

Colorado deaths stoke worries about pot edibles

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

 
NASA’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down as planned

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

Atheist national conference aims at Mormon church

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

 
White House updating online privacy policy

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

SpaceX making Easter delivery of station supplies

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Sudden movement raises alarm in Wyoming slide area

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Some countries get Obama, but want his wife, too

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Man who avoided prison is overwhelmed by support

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Teen suspended for asking Miss America to prom

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
In Egypt, a corruption watchdog hit by backlash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

Military scales down, modifies Guam buildup plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
Captain of sunken SKorean ferry arrested

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

Avalanche sweeps down Everest, killing at least 12

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
Diplomacy doesn’t move insurgents in Ukraine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
57-nation OSCE plays key Ukraine monitoring role

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Ukraine crisis: The turning points

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
.

Opinion

Cheers, jeers for the week of April 13-19, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: A11

 
Time to fix a law the courts have mucked up

By Thomas Elias | From Page: A11

Editorial Cartoons for April 19, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
Here we go again in Sacramento

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Today in History for April 19, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: April 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Seniors, it’s never too late to do something about your health

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B7

 
Horoscopes for April 19, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B7

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Prince reaches agreement with music label

By The Associated Press | From Page: B14

‘The Boondocks’ back for final ‘offensive’ season

By The Associated Press | From Page: B14

 
A nutty finale for ‘Scandal,’ TV’s craziest show

By The Associated Press | From Page: B14

Stratocaster still a favorite at 60

By The Associated Press | From Page: B14

 
.

Sports

Hertl has impressive playoff debut for Sharks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Warriors and Clippers take dislike to playoffs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Big innings lift Mustangs over Indians

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Ross, Padres beat Cain and Giants 2-1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

A’s come out swinging to beat Astros 11-3

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Warriors to start O’Neal for Bogut vs. Clippers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Avalanche sweeps down Everest, killing at least 12

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Mets trade 1B Ike Davis to Pirates

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

TNT’s Sager to miss NBA playoffs due to leukemia

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Nadal ousted by Ferrer in Monte Carlo quarters

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

A’s lefty reliever Doolittle gets 5-year deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
’40-and-up club’: Ageless Hopkins after more belts

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Jimenez shoots 65 to lead Greater Gwinnett field

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Solano scores in ninth for 2-1 BVC baseball win over Yuba

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Choi leads rain-delayed RBC Heritage

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
NBA’s Silver wants age limit change, no rush on others

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

NBA playoffs looking more wide-open than expected

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Source: Grizzlies’ G Calathes suspended for 20 games

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

.

Business

5 features an Amazon phone might offer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
Judge says American can’t end retiree benefits yet

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

Mazda recalls 109,000 older SUVs for rust problem

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
.

Obituaries

Sealwyn Shirley Brucefield Shepherd Malkiewicz

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
.

Home Seller 04/19/14

Summerwood features 8 new homes in Suisun

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR2

Real estate transactions for April 19, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR3

Average US 30-year mortgage rate falls to 4.27 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR3