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Nov. 30, 2012 at 8:04 AM   |   Comments

Syria's Internet, main airport shut down

DAMASCUS, Syria, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- The Internet was down across Syria Friday and the Damascus airport was shut as rebel and regime troops battled and other rebel forces moved toward the capital.

Landline and cellphone networks were also crippled in parts of the country, especially where fighting was fiercest, anti-regime activists said, warning the cutoff might mean authorities were planning to escalate their crackdown against the country's raging uprising.

Only residents with satellite connections to the Internet could access the Web, activists said.

The Internet has been a strategic weapon for both the rebels and the regime of President Bashar Assad, letting activists organize and communicate but also exposing them to surveillance, The New York Times reported.

U.S. network security company Renesys, which monitors and analyzes Internet disruptions, said 77 of Syria's 84 ISP address blocks, representing 92 percent of the country's routed networks, were unreachable.

A nationwide shutdown of Web and voice communications would be unprecedented in the rebel uprising, although the regime has frequently shut down Internet and cellphone access in opposition-held areas -- sometimes for weeks at a time -- since the uprising began in March 2011, British newspaper The Guardian said.


Abbas to visit Gaza; first time since 2007

GAZA, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Mahmoud Abbas will visit Gaza for the first time in more than five years to try to heal the dispute between his Fatah Party and Hamas, officials said.

The Palestinian Authority president has not visited Gaza since Hamas seized control of the area in the summer of 2007.

Palestine Liberation Organization official Zakariya al-Agha said Abbas' visit would focus on the possibility of establishing a unity government between Fatah and Hamas, The Jerusalem Post reported Friday.

The announcement came before Abbas spoke at the U.N. General Assembly in New York on upgrading Palestinian status to a non-member observer state, officials said. The General Assembly approved the status upgrade Thursday.

Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader, recently was quoted as saying Abbas wouldn't be permitted to enter Gaza for fear that his party rivals may harm him. Zahar also reportedly said he has asked the prosecutor-general's office in Gaza to arrest Abbas for "libel and slander" if he enters the strip.

Thousands of Palestinians celebrated the U.N. vote in the West Bank and Gaza Thursday.


Obama on road; GOP snubs his 'cliff' offer

HATFIELD, Pa., Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Republicans spurned President Obama's offer in "fiscal cliff" budget talks, calling it a step backward, and Obama was to press his case at a toy factory Friday.

"I'm disappointed in where we are, and disappointed in what's happened over the last couple weeks," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters.

"Going over the fiscal cliff is serious business. And I'm here seriously trying to resolve it. And I would hope the White House would get serious as well," he said.

Boehner -- who learned from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner Obama wants $1.6 trillion in new taxes, $50 billion in fresh spending and new power to raise the federal debt limit -- was trying late Thursday to decide how to respond, aides told The Washington Post.

Policymakers have 31 days to stop more than $500 billion in tax increases and spending cuts from kicking in, a combination economists warn will send the U.S. economy back into recession.


Egypt Islamists pass draft Constitution

CAIRO, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- An Islamist-led Egyptian panel Friday passed a draft Constitution amid a crisis brought on by President Mohamed Morsi declaring his rule was above the law.

The draft, which the Constituent Assembly of Egypt approved after dawn, keeps Sharia, or the moral code and religious law of Islam, as the main source of Egypt's legislation.

Some critics said certain language could allow conservative Islamists to impose a rigid version of Sharia, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Sharia deals with many topics addressed by secular law, including crime, politics and economics. It also addresses personal matters, including diet, prayer and fasting.

In its strictest definition it is considered the infallible law of God.

The Constitution was immediately sent to Morsi, who said Thursday he would call a nationwide referendum on the charter "soon."

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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