Amid violence, Syrian Internet connections go down
At least 128 people were killed in violence across the country on Tuesday, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria reported.
Amid the reported violence, 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 and BGPmon Internet tracking companies also reported the loss of Syrian Internet connectivity at that time.
Opposition activists reported widespread power and Internet outages in Damascus and throughout the country, warning that the communications cutoff could be an ominous sign.
A regional conflict
The conflict in Syria, which began in March 2011 when the regime cracked down on peaceful protesters, has morphed into a civil war with sectarian overtones.
The war has pitted rebel fighters against the Assad regime, a government dominated by the minority Alawites, who represent an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Sunnis, who make up a majority of the Syrian population, are dominant in the opposition.
Syria is believed to be the main conduit to the Shiite militia Hezbollah in Lebanon, the proxy through which Iran, a predominantly Shiite nation, can threaten Israel with an arsenal of short-range missiles.
In 2009, the top U.S. diplomat in Damascus disclosed that Syria had begun delivery of ballistic missiles to Hezbollah, according to official cables leaked to and published by WikiLeaks.
The last thing Iran wants is a Sunni-dominated Syria -- especially as the Syrian rebels' main supporters are Iran's Persian Gulf rivals: Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Hezbollah's feared scenario is Israel on one side and a hostile Sunni-led Syria on the other.
Kerry talks about Syria in Russia
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday he hopes Russia and the United States can find "common ground" on Syria. Kerry was in Russia for talks.
Moscow and Washington have had profound differences over how to address the crisis. Russia, a longtime friend of Syria, has supported the regime during the conflict. The United States wants al-Assad to step aside.
"We really believe, the United States believes, that we share some very significant common interests with respect to Syria -- stability in the region, not having extremists creating problems throughout the region and elsewhere -- and I think we have both embraced in the Geneva communique a common approach. So it's my hope that today we'll be able to dig into that a little bit and see if we can find the common ground," Kerry said, according to a draft transcript of a meeting released by the State Department.
The Geneva plan was proposed last year for negotiations between members of the opposition and the Syrian regime. The United States, Russia, and European and Middle Eastern nations have signed on to the plan.