UPDATE 1-Syria's Internet back up after day-long blackout

Wed May 8, 2013 12:26pm EDT

BEIRUT May 8 (Reuters) - Syria's Internet and phone lines started working again on Wednesday evening, residents said, after a day-long blackout left much of the population in the midst of civil war cut off from the outside world.

Communication networks have been crucial for opposition activists trying to get out videos and information about a two-year conflict that has killed more than 70,000 people.

Activists called the Internet outage an intentional move to aid countrywide military operations.

Data from Google Inc, Akamai Technologies Inc and Renesys showed that Internet traffic started flowing to and from Syria shortly 1400 GMT on Wednesday, after stopping shortly before 1900 GMT on Tuesday.

"It is the status quo ... Everything looks the same as before the Internet came down," said Jim Cowie, chief technology officer at Renesys, a U.S. firm that tracks global web traffic.

Syrian state news agency SANA quoted the director general of the General Establishment for Communications, Bakr Bakr, as saying Internet services and communication between provinces had gone down due to a malfunction in an optic cable.

But the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group that monitors both President Bashar al-Assad's security forces and the rebels, cited military sources who said the blackout was part of a security force operation.

The insurgency against four decades of Assad family rule began as peaceful protests but descended into civil war after months of fierce crackdowns by security forces.

Assad's forces have often shut down telephone and Internet connections in some cities or neighbourhoods during major combat operations. Opposition activists accuse them of doing the same during alleged massacres that killed hundreds of people.

Most recently, communications appeared to have been cut in the coastal towns of Banias and Baida during what activists said were widespread executions that killed hundreds of people, including dozens of children.

The latest outage demonstrated the fragile nature of global Internet connections. In Syria, the system of Internet providers is centralised, meaning a single point of failure could bring down all connections, according to Cowie.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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