Over the course of the 20-month long Syrian conflict, the authorities on several occasions shut down large parts of the internet, only to reinstate it later. This time, it appears that the entire system has been taken offline—an unprecedented move—according to a report on Thursday from Renesys, a U.S.-based monitoring firm.
“In the global routing table, all 84 of Syria‘s IP address blocks have become unreachable, effectively removing the country from the Internet,” the firm said in a blog posting.
Syrian activists, rebel insurgents, and even members of the Syrian army have posted numerous videos on YouTube and other sharing sites, documenting military assaults, captured bases, or issued threats.
It is unclear if the Syrian government was responsible or if there was merely a blackout. Access to the country’s systems was disconnected at around 12:26 p.m. local time, Renesys said.
“Looking closely at the continuing Internet blackout in Syria, we can see that traceroutes into Syria are failing, exactly as one would expect for a major outage,” Renesys said. “The primary autonomous system for Syria is the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment; all of their customer networks are currently unreachable.”
Renesys said that a small number of networks have remained connected to the Internet in Syria and are still hosting content. It, however, noted that the networks are potentially offshore and not located inside the country and are “perhaps not subject to whatever killswitch was thrown today within Syria.”
The move to shut down the Internet is nothing new. In Libya and Egypt, both governments shut down Internet service during their revolutions last year.
China is said to frequently shut down the Internet and other telecommunications following mass unrest or self-immolations in Tibetan areas to prevent the spread of information.
It is unclear why Syria chose to completely take its networks offline more than 20 months into the conflict.
The Associated Press later reported that another U.S.-based Internet monitoring company said Syria shut off its Internet.
The move comes as Syrian rebels intensified fighting with government forces outside of Damascus, the capital, near its international airport on Thursday, according to activists with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. There have been “humanitarian losses from both side,” it said.
Activists have estimated that well over 30,000 people have died since unrest flared in March 2011.
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