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Rebels, Assad Regime Blame Each Other for Major Communication Service Disruption

November 29, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
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JEFFREY BROWN: The battle for control of Syria reached ever closer to the capital today. Heavy fighting flared near the Damascus airport, and online access was cut, as the pressure intensified on President Bashar al-Assad.

We have a report narrated by Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: It could be the West’s worst nightmare, jubilant fighters near Damascus. This group has captured a helicopter and these Islamists are now in the vanguard of Syria’s rebel army.

Syrian warplanes and helicopters are on the attack around the capital. And to the road to the international airport has been closed by fighting. And as that fighting intensifies, much of Syria’s Internet network has been cut.

The government and opposition are blaming each other for the shutdown. Whatever the truth, Syria’s regime is battling these men for its very survival.

President Assad’s helicopters are being shot down. And even a MiG jet was filmed tumbling from the sky, this rebel boasting that he’s downed both a helicopter and a MiG within 24 hours. These surface-to-air missiles have been looted from captured military bases.

“What do we with it first?” a voice can be heard asking. Not everybody knows how this newfound firepower works. Yet, this Islamist brigade near Damascus now has one, while near Aleppo an entire air defense system seems to have fallen to the so-called Daoud Battalion, which is affiliated, however loosely, with al-Qaida.

“These are Assad’s missiles,” says the cameraman, “and we have taken them.”

London and Washington may have refused to arm these rebels. But armed they are like never before.