Flights suspended to Damascus
Amateur video appears to show air strikes in Damascus as airlines suspend flights due to violence.PT0M0S 620 349
Communications to the outside world were cut across large parts of Syria on Thursday as battles raged close to Damascus airport and foreign airlines cancelled flights.
Mobile networks, landlines and the internet were cut in many parts of the country, the opposition Local Coordination Committees said.
The government said Syria was working to repair a breakdown in the main internet connection, state television reported, while the Information Minister denied the government was responsible and blamed "terrorists" for the disruption, Al Arabiya television reported.
Fighting intensifies ... an image taken from video footage shows the aftermath of an air attack on Homs by government forces. Photo: AP
But the former US director of national intelligence John McConnell said the Syrian opposition relied partly on the internet for its command-and-control capabilities, and that the Syrian government was effectively shutting those down.
"It's just so easy now to co-ordinate with mobile phones and internet platforms" and in many cases that was all that was available to the opposition, Mr McConnell said.
By shutting off the internet, the government might hurt its own communication abilities as well, he said, but it could rely on other technologies, including older microwave technology. "They are hurting themselves to some extent but the government has other options."
All internet traffic in and out of Syria was shut down without warning at 12.26pm local time on Thursday (9.26pm AEST), according to Renesys, a web monitoring company based in New Hampshire.
"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 in a blog.
Syrian forces and rebels engaged in heavy fighting near the main airport in Damascus, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Emirates and EgyptAir both cancelled flights to and from Syria.
Austria's defence ministry said two of its soldiers assigned to the United Nations force in the Golan Heights had been wounded as they approached the airport. Their injuries were not serious, it said.
Syria's 20-month civil war has resulted in at least 40,000 deaths, the Observatory says, and rises by about 150 a day as opposition forces seek to oust the government of President Bashar al-Assad.