Syria bombs rebels, Internet restored after 2 days

Rights group: War planes bombing Damascus suburbs of Kafar Souseh and Darraya; rebels clash with troops.

December 1, 2012 18:57
2 minute read.
Burning wreckage of  Syrian warplane [file]

Burning wreckage of Syrian warplane 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Abdalghne Karoof)

BEIRUT - Syrian jets bombed rebel-held areas of Damascus on Saturday, residents said, and a countrywide Internet blackout came to an end after two days.

Syrian rebels fighting to oust President Bashar Assad clashed with troops in most populated areas of the country, according to opposition activists. At least 40,000 people have been killed during the 20-month-old uprising, they say.

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The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition-linked monitor, said war planes were bombing the Damascus suburbs of Kafar Souseh and Darraya.

If rebels maintain a presence in these areas, they will hold ground in a continuous arc from the northeast to southwest of the capital's outer districts.

"Syrian regular forces are trying to control the areas surrounding the capital and clashed with rebel fighters," the Observatory said.

The mostly Sunni Muslim rebels battling Assad, who is from Syria's Alawite minority linked to Shi'ite Islam, have been making gains across Syria by overrunning military bases and have been ramping up attacks on Damascus, his seat of power.

Since Thursday, clashes have been reported near the Aqraba and Babilla districts on the southeastern outskirts of Damascus which lead to the international airport, effectively closing the road and leading EgyptAir and Emirates to suspend flights.

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Syrian state television quoted a ministry of information statement saying the Damascus international airport was open on Saturday and that the road leading to it was safe. Opposition activists said clashes continued.

The Internet was working in Damascus and the central city of Homs on Saturday, residents said, after a two-day blackout that experts said was highly likely to have been caused by authorities.

Assad's government has been accused before of cutting Internet and telephone connections to block opposition activist and rebel communications during the 20-month-old revolt.

Authorities had attributed the latest outage to a "terrorist" attack or a technical fault.

"Most people have Internet in the capital now," a resident, who asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters over Skype, adding that he was speaking to his friends in Syria using social media.

It was not immediately clear if the Internet was operating countrywide but two activists from the central city of Homs said the service had resumed.

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

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