Syria internet outage over, state news agency says

Internet service hass been restored across Syria, after a countrywide outage cut off the country from the rest of the world for nearly 20 hours, state media said.

Cellphone and phone services had also been down in many areas

A Syrian female rebel monitors the movement of Syrian government forces in the Sheikh Maqsud district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on April 11, 2013. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

Internet service was restored across Syria on Wednesday, after a countrywide outage cut off the country from the rest of the world for nearly 20 hours, state media said.

The state news agency SANA said a problem with a fiber optics cable was to blame for the second nationwide outage since November. 

There had been speculation that the regime pulled the plug, possibly as a cover for military actions, but no large-scale military offensives were reported Wednesday. In the past, President Bashar al-Assad’s government halted Internet service in selected areas during government offensives to disrupt communication among opposition fighters.

Internet service abruptly stopped at about 9:45 p.m. local time on Tuesday and was back on sometime after 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Syrian websites, including that of SANA, were accessible again after state media reported that service had been restored.

In fighting in Syria on Wednesday, government troops pushed into a strategic town along the highway leading to the Jordanian border.

The regime’s advance into Khirbet Ghazaleh, a town south of Damascus along a key artery to the border, came after weeks of fighting and government attempts to secure the highway.

The push was part of a wider offensive against opposition fighters in which Assad’s troops have regained some areas around Damascus, in the central province of Homs near the Lebanese border and in the region of Aleppo to the north.

The violence came as Iran, one of Assad’s strongest allies, declared that it is ready to help any attempt to end Syria’s crisis. In an opinion published in Lebanon’s daily Al-Akhbar, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi wrote that it is up to the Syrian people to choose their political system and president.

U.S. to provide more humanitarian aid

Meanwhile in Washington, the Obama administration is expected to pledge $100 million in new Syria aid, U.S. officials said Wednesday. But the money is for humanitarian purposes only and not linked to any decision on arming Syrian opposition fighters.

The announcement will be made by Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday in Rome, where his diplomacy includes a meeting with Jordan’s foreign minister, the officials said.

The new funds are intended to help support 1.4 million Syrian refugees, including many in U.S. ally Jordan, and hundreds of thousands of other civilians still trapped by the violence inside Syria’s border. The announcement means total humanitarian assistance pledged by the U.S. during the two-year war will climb to $510 million.

The U.S. officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter ahead of Kerry’s announcement and demanded anonymity. 

While the cash influx will certainly be welcomed by aid groups and refugee organizations that have lamented a lack of financial support, it is unlikely to end the clamoring for lethal assistance among the opposition fighters.