Syrian Internet Still Down, Experts Say Regime Is Behind The Blackout

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By Jacey Fortin | December 1, 2012 12:12 PM EST

Syrian regime officials and rebel fighters have blamed each other for an internet blackout that has limited communication in the country since Thursday.

But a report from CloudFlare, a web security company based in the United States, confirms what many outside observers have already assumed: it is more than likely that Syrian officials instigated the blackout.

It’s an allegation that has been denied by the Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoabi on state television. “It is not true that the state cut the Internet,” he said, according to ABC News. “The terrorists [as the regime refers to the rebels] targeted the Internet lines, resulting in some regions being cut off.”

“From our investigation, that appears unlikely to be the case,” wrote CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince in a blog post, explaining that such a massive outage could not have been the result of a simple cable-cut.

“Syria has 4 physical cables that connect it to the rest of the Internet. Three are undersea cables that land in the city of Tartous, Syria. The fourth is an over-land cable through Turkey. In order for a whole-country outage, all four of these cables would have had to been cut simultaneously. That is unlikely to have happened.”

About 40,000 people have died in Syria since the conflict began in March of last year. Loosely organized rebel forces are fighting to overthrow the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which is well-armed but has seen frequent defections.

The internet blackout has dire implications for rebel forces, which already suffer from a lack of communication between various brigades. Divisions between the militias are only widening as the conflict drags on; what began as a political rebellion has become an increasingly sectarian battle, pitting majority Sunnis against religious minorities, and hard-line Islamists – including some terrorists linked to al-Qaeda – against secularists.

The internet was one of the few tools for long-distance collaboration in the war-torn country.

Not all connections are lost. The Washington Post reports that some of the rebels have used satellite connections to upload videos. In addition, some Syrians are still online since their connections are enabled by servers located outside the country.

But as of Friday night, the vast majority of Syria’s rebel fighters are still in the dark. Analysts worry that the move could signify the regime's intentions to launch a major offensive against the opposition.

“It is... deeply troubling to the CloudFlare team when we see an entire nation cut off from the ability to access and report information,” said Prince in his Thursday blog post. “Our thoughts are with the Syrian people and we hope connectivity, and peace, will be quickly restored.”

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