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Syria Internet blackout, mobile networks down

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Syrian government shut down Internet Thursday.

SYRIA: INTERNET, MOBILE BLACKOUT — The Syrian government shut down the Internet across the country and cut cellphone services in select areas Thursday as rebels and government troops waged fierce battles near the capital’s airport, forcing international airlines to suspend flights, activists said to the Associated Press.

Two US-based Internet-monitoring companies say Syria has shut off the Internet nationwide, the Associated Press reported. Activists in Syria reached Thursday by satellite telephone confirmed the unprecedented blackout, which comes amid intense fighting in the capital, Damascus, according to AP. Renesys, a U.S.-based network security firm that studies Internet disruptions, says Syria effectively disappeared from the Internet at 12:26 p.m. local time.

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Tech news site Cnet too reported that cell phones in Syria weren’t working and that airlines were canceling flights. ”The Middle Eastern country has been experiencing an Internet outage for several hours, and many people on Twitter are reporting that phone lines are down as well. In addition, some airlines are canceling flights to Damascus,” Cnet reported on Thursday.

A senior EgyptAir official told the Associated Press the flight to Damascus scheduled for Friday had 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.

Renesys reported on its blog, showing a graph of the apparent blackout, “Looking closely at the continuing Internet blackout in Syria, we can see that traceroutes into Syria are failing, exactly as one would expect for a major outage. The primary autonomous system for Syria is the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment; all of their customer networks are currently unreachable.”

Although the blackout in Syria wasn’t expected, the method of shutting down communications is not uncommon and has been used in other cases during the Middle East uprising, such as Egypt. QZ.com reports:

“Internet and cellular connectivity has been an essential enabler of the distributed communication of Syria’s leaderless revolution, leading to fears that the government would eventually cut off communications networks entirely.”

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 according to AP.

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, the news wire reported.

The editor of the Traveling Reporter works as a business news editor, and is a frequent traveler. When not doing any of that, he spends time on his boat and tries to figure out where to travel next. Two of his top destinations are the Philippines and San Francisco. Email Erik! Follow the Traveling Reporter at Stumbleupon, Tumblr, Chime In, Pinterest, Google+, Weibo, Storify, Facebook, Traveldudes, Myspace.