CNN – by Catherine E. Shoichet and Hamdi Alkhshali
Internet connections across Syria went down Tuesday night, according to several global monitoring sites.
Google reported that its services became inaccessible in Syria around 9:45 p.m. (2:45 p.m. ET). The Renesys, Akamai andBGPmon Internet tracking companies also reported the loss of Syrian Internet connectivity at that time.
“It seems Syria has largely disappeared from the Internet,” Dan Hubbard, chief technology officer for Umbrella Security Labs, wrote in a blog post about the apparent outage.
The website for Syria’s state-run news agency and several government websites were not accessible.
CNN staff in Damascus could not connect to the Internet. At one hotel, staffers said the Internet was down “in the hotel and all of Damascus.”
Opposition activists reported widespread power and Internet outages in Damascus and throughout the country, warning that the communications cutoff could be an ominous sign.
The opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said the activist network would put “all responsibility on regime forces for any violation or massacres against civilians.”
The cause of the apparent outage was unclear.
“Although we can’t yet comment on what caused this outage, past incidents were linked to both government-ordered shutdowns and damage to the infrastructure, which included fiber cuts and power outages,” Hubbard wrote.
After a similar situation in November, U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford told CNN that Syria had shut down the Internet in the past.
“The Syrian government has been monitoring (the Internet) for years,” he said. “They have been using the Internet with Iranian assistance to track opposition activists, arrest and kill them.”
“That is the reason why our nonlethal assistance to the Syrian opposition, we put a special emphasis on communications equipment precisely to help the Syrian people tell the world what is going on inside Syria,” he said.
Technology has become a key weapon used by both sides of Syria’s civil war to fight for their cause, with opposition activists using social media to report violence and a group of pro-Syrian government hackers known as the Syrian Electronic Army targeting major news organizations and activists.
CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen reported from Damascus, Syria. CNN’s Wayne Gray and Luke Henderson contributed to this report.