Syrian authorities block internet and cell phone signals; Syrian rebels kill ruling party official


Syrian rebels celebrate on top of the remains of a Syrian government fighter jet which was shot down at Daret Ezza, on the border between the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo, on November 28, 2012. Syrian rebels captured a pilot manning the fighter jet downed over Daret Ezza in the northern province of Aleppo, witnesses told an AFP reporter in the town.



Syrian activists said the authorities had blocked internet and cell phone signals in parts of Damascus on Thursday, where rebels were engaged in clashes with government troops, according to the Associated Press.

An activist near Damascus told the AP that the government had cut the internet in southern neighborhoods of the capital, while another said land lines and cell phone signals were also blocked.

The BBC reported later in the day that the road to the airport in Damascus was closed and all flights were canceled amid reports of "fierce clashes" in the area. Correspondents said the government appeared to be mounting an "unprecedented offensive" against the rebel-controlled portions of the city.

While state TV reported on Wednesday evening that the airport road was "secured," a source from the Free Syrian Army told the BBC that rebel fighters were "inching closer and closer" over the past few day and hours. The source said the ultimate goal was to capture the airport.

Later reports also suggested that internet and phone lines across the country had gone down, with the Syrian information minister blaming "terrorists" for the outage.

Activists also told the AP on Thursday that Syrian rebels had bombed the house of Hussein Rifai, a top member of the ruling Baath party, killing him and three of his body guards.

The state-run news agency SANA reported on the bombing and said there were casualties, but it did not confirm if Rifai was among the dead.

Agence France Presse reported that rebels launched an assault on Wadi Daif, an army base in northwestern Syria, on Thursday. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, several rebel brigades joined forces to attack the base in Idlib province, while the army retaliated with heavy fire and shelling.

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Meanwhile, Spain said it officially recognized the Syrian National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, AFP reported.

Rebels have made significant gains in past days, though they have lost control in some areas, as well. AFP noted that they recently shot down a government attack aircraft with surface-to-air missiles.

US government officials have said that the Obama administration is considering deeper intervention to help push Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power, according to The New York Times.

No decisions have been made, but one of the alternatives includes arming some of the opposition fighters, said the Times.

One of the decisions likely to be made by next week is whether NATO's surface-to-air missiles should be placed in Turkey, to defend against Syrian missiles. US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Wednesday that the NATO missiles would not be "for use beyond the Turkish border."

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