DAMASCUS - Syria’s electricity supply was gradually returning after it was cut across the country on Thursday and Internet connections were briefly disrupted, state media said.

SANA news agency quoted the electricity minister saying that the network was returning and would be restored to its earlier capacity by midnight. It did not say what caused the cut. It said earlier that the ‘electricity work has been cut in all governorates. Attempts to find the cause of the outage have begun.’ A Reuters witness confirmed that electricity had gone down in Damascus, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the five-year-old conflict in Syria, said that power had been cut in the ‘vast majority of governorates’.

SANA reported the Syria Telecommunications Company as saying Internet services were partially halted on Thursday ‘as a result of sudden damage to one of the network hubs’, but were later restored.

Before this, ‘electricity has been cut across all provinces and teams are trying to determine the reason for this unexpected cut,’ the station reported, citing a source within the electricity ministry. Damascus residents said power in the capital had been out since 1:00 pm (1100 GMT) and that mobile Internet connections from some private providers were also not working. Syria’s state mobile provider said its Internet service had been ‘partially cut due to part of the network unexpectedly malfunctioning’. Since Syria’s conflict erupted in March 2011, various areas across the country have experienced intermittent power outages as a result of clashes or air strikes and many regularly rely on generators for power.

Syria’s parliament had on Monday called in electricity minister Imad Khamis for a special hearing on the power sector. Khamis told parliamentarians that the cost of ‘direct damage’ to the country’s power stations and the electricity network from 2011 until the end of 2015 was estimated $3.75 billion.

In statements carried by Syria’s state news agency SANA, Khamis said five out of the 13 main power stations in Syria had been ‘directly damaged’ in the war. France and Britain called on the Syrian government and its Russian ally to immediately end attacks on Western-backed rebels, saying all sides had to fully implement a cessation of hostilities deal and allow unfettered access to besieged areas.

‘We ask all sides that are committing human rights violations, including Russia and the Syrian regime, to put an immediate end to the attacks against moderate opposition groups,’ a joint statement after a Franco-British summit said.

It added that all attacks against civilians and medical personnel also had to stop and that the Syrian government and its allies should stop their ‘march to Aleppo, which compromised peace prospects and threatene to dramatically worsen the refugee crisis and benefit Islamic State.’ The two sides also called on Russia to use its influence on separatists in eastern Ukraine to stop the violence there and urged the Ukrainian government to unify its efforts to implement reforms.