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Fighting cuts off Damascus airport

Syrian rebels battled forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad just outside Damascus yesterday, restricting access to its international airport, and the Dubai-based Emirates airline and EgyptAir stopped flights to the Syrian capital.

A rebel fighter who identified himself as Abu Omar, a member of the Jund Allah brigade, said that insurgents fired mortars at the airport’s runways and were blocking the road linking it with the capital.

He said insurgents were not inside the airport but were able to block access to and from it. Another source in a Damascus rebel unit said mortars had been used in clashes near the airport but did not know whether rebels had fired mortars directly at the airport. Their accounts could not be immediately verified because of tight restrictions on media access to Syria.

Two Austrian soldiers in a UN peacekeeping force deployed in the Golan Heights, disputed by Syria and Israel, were wounded when their convoy came under fire near Damascus airport, the defence ministry said.

Meanwhile, residents said the internet in Damascus crashed in the early afternoon and mobile and land telephone lines were functioning only intermittently. It appeared to be the worst disruption to communications since the Syrian uprising began 20 months ago. (Reuters)

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