Airport road reopens but Internet still cut: Syria
Beirut: Syrian rebels battled regime troops south of Damascus on Friday and Internet and most telephone lines were cut for a second day, but the government reopened the road to the capital`s airport in a sign the fighting could be calming, activists said.
The general manager of the Syrian Civil Aviation Agency, Ghaidaa Abdul-Latif, said the airport was operating "as usual" today. Yesterday, international flights were canceled because of the violence.
President Bashar Assad`s regime and opposition activists blamed each other for the communications blackout, which is the first to hit the whole country since Syria`s 20-month-old uprising began.
Syrian authorities previously have cut Internet and telephones in areas ahead of military operations. Today, some land lines were working sporadically.
An Associated Press reporter in the capital said Damascus was largely quiet, although there were sounds of fighting in the suburbs.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the main road to Damascus` airport reopened early today afternoon. Intense clashes broke out after midnight in villages and towns near the facility but the area was calm by the late morning, the group said. It said rebels were able to destroy several army vehicles near the airport.
The Observatory, which has a network of activists around Syria, reported fighting in other southern neighborhoods of Damascus, including Qaboun and Hajar Aswad. The Observatory said it was able to contact its sources who used satellite telephones.
Activists say Assad`s regime pulled the plug on the Internet yesterday perhaps in preparation for a major offensive. Cellphone service also went out in Damascus and parts of central Syria, they said. The government blamed rebel fighters for the outages.
Yesterday`s violence appeared to be focused on southern suburbs near the airport, forcing the military to shut the road to the facility. The surrounding districts have been strongholds of rebel support since the uprising began.
Yesterday`s fighting wounded two Austrian soldiers assigned to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights when their convoy came under fire on the way to the airport, Austria Press Agency said.
The two were transferred to Israel for treatment today and their condition is not life-threatening, said David Ratner, a spokesman for Rambam Hospital in Haifa. He said the two soldiers suffered gunshot wounds one to the chest and the other to the hand.
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