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Syrian Internet goes dark

At 12:26 pm today in Syria, 92 percent of the country's networks went offline - shutting the country off almost completely from the Internet. (Update: 100 percent of Syrian networks are now offline.)

The Internet blackout comes at a time when Syria's rebels are believed to be making significant gains around Damascus. This map provides a snapshot of the insurgents' gains (in red) around the capital's suburbs. The fear among opposition activists is that the shutdown is the first step in a wider crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad's regime, to preempt a rebel offensive.

There are signs that Damascus airport could be the focal point of the brewing conflict between Assad and the rebel forces. The airport road was closed after being the scene of fierce fighting, and Dubai-based Emirates Airline suspended flights into the capital - possibly a reaction to the rebels' acquisition of surface-to-air missiles. An Egypt Air plane landed in Damascus today, but according to an official at Cairo airport, the pilot was instructed to take off back to Egypt without passengers "if he felt that the situation there is not good to stay for longer."

This sounds like the beginning of a story, rather than its end. More as it develops.

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