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Syria crisis:Army offensive along Damascus airport;Internet ,mobile communication 'cut off'
Last Updated : 30 Nov 2012 04:18:37 PM IST
Syria crisis:Army offensive along Damascus airport as Internet and mobile communication 'cut off'


Syrian rebels and government troops are clashing south of the capital as Internet and telephones lines remain cut for a second day nationwide.Damascus airport was not accepting flights on Friday a day after fighting near the airport cut the main road to the Syrian capital.

Syrian troops mounted an assault on rebels near Damascus, closing off the road to the airport before later securing it, authorities said, amid awidespread telecommunications outage.

President Bashar Assad’s regime and opposition activists blamed each other for the blackout, which is the first to hit the whole country since Syria’s 20-month-old uprising began.

"Airlines are not operating to Damascus today as the airport was not accepting any flights," said the Dubai-based airline official, who declined to be identified.

Flight schedules on aviation websites showed that two airlines based in the Gulf - Air Arabia and flydubai - would normally operate flights to Damascus on a Friday.

The Austrian Defense Ministry said two Austrian soldiers from a United Nations peacekeeping force deployed in the Golan Heights area — a disputed zone claimed by Syria and Israel — were injured when their convoy came under fire along the airport road. Their injuries were described as not life-threatening.

Phone and Internet networks were down across most of Syria for a second straight day on Friday

"In some areas, it is possible to access the Internet but with great difficulty," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told .

"It is also very difficult to reach people by phone.But we have received reports that it is possible to communicate between certain regions via fixed telephone lines," he added.

 Internet and telephone communications, including mobile phones, were cut in thecapital.

The official news agency SANA had still not resumed transmission today after its feed was cut yesterday at midday. Its website was also inaccessible.

 Yesterday afternoon, when communications were first cut in Syria, activists accused the regime of preparing a "massacre" while the authorities explained this interruption as "maintenance".

The United States on Thursday accused the Syrian regime of cutting off Internet and telecommunications links in the war-torn country, branding the move a sign of desperation.  Amnesty International said on Twitter that reports of  an Internet shutdown were "very disturbing".

Friends of Syria' agree to step up pressure on Assad

Delegates from more than 60 countries agreed in Tokyo today to ramp up pressure on Bashar al-Assad's regime and urged the international community to unite to force change in Syria.

The "Friends of Syria" condemned the "incessant killings, bombings of residential areas" and the "gross violation of human rights" that have taken place since Assad's forces moved to crush an uprising.

 At a meeting in the Japanese capital, the group's fifth since its inception, they called for a full oil embargo on Syria, a move aimed at cutting off a rich source of currency for the regime.

 In a statement released after the meeting, the group, which includes Western and Arab countries, called on "all members of the international community, especially members of the United Nations Security Council, to take swift,responsible and resolute action".


 Two of the five permanent members of the Security Council -- China and Russia -- have blocked action. The statement welcomed the formation of the National Coalition, a newly-unified opposition group that has been recognised by Britain, France and Spain as the legitimate representatives of Syria.

It also called for ramping up of sanctions to tighten the noose around the regime, insisting that any ill effects suffered by the populace were the fault of the government in Damascus. "The group called on the international financial and business communities to diligently comply with ongoing and forthcoming measures against the Syrian regime," it said.

"The group reiterated its call on all states to impose an embargo on Syrian petroleum products and a ban on the provision of  insurance and reinsurance for shipments of Syrian petroleum products." Presently, the United States has banned the import of
Syrian oil and gas, but the EU has not.

 Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba earlier told the meeting the international community had to act together where the divided Security Council had failed."The violence has continued for more than 20 months and the number of casualties in Syria has surpassed 40,000 and counting today, causing a humanitarian crisis," he told representatives from 67 countries and organisations.

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