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Martin Chulov
guardian.co.uk

Syrian officials shut down nationwide internet access on Thursday and closed Damascus airport as rebels mounted offensives nearby and tried to advance on the capital from four directions. Phone networks were also crippled in much of the country, causing fear and confusion on both sides and fuelling claims that a new rebel push was gaining momentum.

Syria’s information minister blamed “terrorists” for the outage, but the communications shutdown was seen as an attempt to stymie rebel moves as militias try to co-ordinate an assault on Damascus. It was also thought to be aimed at thwarting any plans for advances in other towns and cities.

Opposition groups have also been advancing in northern Syria, particularly near the second city, Aleppo, where the downing of two regime aircraft with surface to air missiles this week has given impetus to a rebel campaign that had become a series of attritional battles.

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