Syria isolated from world
AP PhotoInternet and phone links in Syria remained cut for a second straight day Nov. 30 as fierce clashes raged near Damascus even as the government reopened the road to the capital’s airport.
Activists said most phones and Internet networks were down for a second straight day after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime pulled the plug on the Internet on Nov. 29.. Syrian authorities had previously cut Internet and telephones operations in areas ahead of military operations.
Cell phone service also went out in Damascus and parts of central Syria, they said. However, the government blamed rebel fighters for the outages.
Some 2,000 communication sets supplied to opposition rebels over the past few months as part of a U.S. non-lethal assistance program were not affected by the blackout, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
Global-hacking network Anonymous said it would shut down Syrian government websites around the world in response to a countrywide Internet blackout. Anonymous, a loose affiliation of hacking groups that opposes Internet censorship, said it would remove from the Internet all web assets belonging to al-Assad’s government that are outside Syria, starting with embassies.
On the ground, activists said the main road from the airport to Damascus, which was closed Nov. 29 due to the fighting, had reopened but that a bus carrying airport employees had been hit by a shell, leaving two people dead. The airport was operating “as usual” and passenger boarding was normal Nov. 30, General Manager of the Syrian Civil Aviation Agency Ghaidaa Abdul-Latif said. The airport requested foreign airlines resume flights after “the restoration of security on the road” to the airport, he said.
Fresh fighting also struck areas around Damascus, including in Babila to the southeast near the airport road and in Daraya to the southwest. Warplanes pounded the northeastern town of Irbin and circled over the Eastern Ghuta region, amid shelling of orchards in the south of the capital and all opposition strongholds where rebels have rear bases.
UN predicts huge surge in refugee numbers
Meanwhile, U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon predicted Nov. 30 that Syrian refugee numbers will surge to more than 700,000 by January as the country’s conflict reaches “appalling heights of brutality.” U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi warned alongside Ban that Syria is now in danger of becoming a “failed state” as he appealed for new international efforts to reach a political settlement.
The U.N. estimates there are currently more than 460,000 refugees in countries around Syria and in North Africa with another 20,000 in Europe, Ban told a U.N. General Assembly meeting on conflict. “We expect the total number of refugees to reach 700,000 by early next year,” he said, adding that he would soon visit refugee camps in Turkey and Jordan.