Internet access has been restored in Syria after an outage across the country that lasted about 20 hours, writes Hayley Tsukayama:

Firms that track Web traffic, including Renesys and Akamai, showed a major spike Wednesday morning after essentially no activity from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday morning.

At WorldViews, Max Fisher writes that the outage resembled a similar outage in November, and that both probably occurred on the orders of the Syrian government:

When the November shut-down first began, many feared that regime forces were about to commit some sort of act it didn’t want the world to see. But no such act came during the 48-hour shutdown. In retrospect, it looks most likely that the regime may have been worried about an ongoing rebel assault against the Damascus airport, an important link to the outside world, and may have shut down Web access as a way to disrupt internal rebel communications.

Meanwhile, the United States and Russia made progress toward a diplomatic approach to Syria’s conflict, Anne Gearan and Scott Wilson report:

The two nations, which have backed opposing sides in the deepening civil war, said they will push jointly for a new transitional government in Syria. Doing so would represent a new moment of cooperation between the countries, both influential in the Middle East, at a time when the Syrian conflict is severely straining regional stability. . .

In announcing the new partnership on Tuesday, however, the top U.S. and Russian diplomats left [Syrian President Bashar al-]Assad’s fate vague. The agreement suggested that Russian support for Assad has softened since the emergence of new evidence that his government has probably used chemical weapons on a small scale in the war.

Diplomats are also working to win the release of four United Nations peacekeepers kidnapped by a Syrian rebel brigade near the Israeli border on Tuesday, Liz Sly and William Booth report:

The U.N. peacekeeping department in New York said four Philippine peacekeepers serving in the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force were captured by “an unidentified armed group” while patrolling near the town of Jamlah. . .

In a statement posted on Facebook, the rebel Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade announced that it seized the peacekeepers to “secure and protect” them from heavy shelling by Syrian government forces. The statement was accompanied by a photograph of the peacekeepers sitting barefoot on a carpet and wearing light-blue U.N. armored vests, three of which were marked “Philippines,” over their camouflage fatigues.

The Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade abducted 21 Philippine peacekeepers in the same area in March. The group first claimed it was holding those U.N. observers as leverage to compel the Syrian government to withdraw its forces from Jamlah, where the troops had clashed with rebels. But after intensive negotiations between the United Nations and the rebels, the group released the peacekeepers along the Jordanian border, saying it had detained them for their own safety.

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