The a rabid spring of 2011 triggered a
nationwide civil war between the government and a
diverse mix of rebel groups. Bashar al-Assad's regime
has since succeeded in regaining large parts of the
country, but in the north the war is still raging. Armed
Sunni Muslim groups have congregated in the northwest,
where s tragedies continue. While the regime has been
busy shutting down the revolt, Syria's Kurds have built
their own regional government, which can get them out of
their hands when major powers interfere in development.
Brief profiles of Syria, including geography, history, politics, economics as well as common acronyms about this country.
Geography and climate
Syria, whose borders were set by former
colonial powers, lies in the eastern Mediterranean and
is dominated by desert, steppe and mountains. At the far
west, fairly good rainfall has created fertile soils,
while the possibility of farming in the desert areas of
the east is entirely dependent on the water from the
Euphrates River. On the surface, Syria
is slightly larger than Götaland and Svealand together.
Along the coast is a three-mile wide strip of land
bounded on the east by the Alawit Mountains, which reach
over 1,500 meters above sea level.
To the east of the Alawit Mountains lies a fertile
valley around the Orontes (al-Asi) river, which flows up
into Lebanon and passes north through Syria on its way
out into the Mediterranean via Turkey. The valley is in
turn separated from a high plateau further east by the
Jabal al-Zawiya mountain range.
The high plateau consists mostly of steppe and desert
but is broken by a series of low mountains running from
southwest to northeast. South of these mountains along
the border with Jordan lies the Syrian desert, al-Hamad.
Through the high plateau, the Euphrates flows from
Turkey in the north to Iraq in the southeast. Euphrates
and its tributaries Khabur and Balikh are used for
irrigation. The Euphrates dam, which was completed in
the 1970s, has given rise to an artificial lake, Lake
Assad, which is eleven kilometers long and eight
kilometers wide. A section of the Tigris River in the
northeast corner borders Turkey.
Along the border with Lebanon in the southwest runs
the Antilibanon mountain range and there lies the
country's highest mountain, the 2,814 meter high Jabal
al-Shaykh (or Hermon). To the east of Antilibanon and
south of Damascus is a partially hard-to-reach area with
volcanic mountains, Jabal al-Arab (or Jabal al-Duruz).
Since 1967, Israel has occupied a nearly 1,300 square
kilometer mountain range in the southwest, the Golan
Almost one third of the area is cultivated and only
about three percent of the land is covered by forest.
On the coast, the climate is humid with hot summers
and mild rainy winters, while it is getting drier
In the central and eastern parts, summers are hot and
winters are cold. In the southeast, desert climate
prevails. In the Hamad Desert it can get over 40 degrees
hot in the summer and sandstorms are common from
February to May. In the mountains it snows in winter and
snow is not uncommon in Damascus (700 meters above sea
185 180 km2 (2018)
Swedish +1 hour
Adjacent country (s)
Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey
Capital with number of residents
Damascus 2.6 million (2010 estimate)
Other major cities
Aleppo 1.7 million, Homs 890,000, Hama 546,000,
Latakia 371,000 (2010 estimate)
Jabal al-Shaykh (or Hermon 2,814 m asl)
Euphrates with tributaries, Orontes (al-Asi)
Government offensive in the northwest
The government side, backed by Russian fighter
aircraft, appears to be carrying out an offensive
against rebel forces in Idlib province. Opposition SOHR
reports that 66 people, including at least 19 civilians,
lost their lives in air strikes in just 24 hours. Idlib
is now the only province completely outside the Assad
Sick people evacuated from enclaves
Severely ill patients have been evacuated from the
Eastern Ghuta rebel enclave outside Damascus. A total of
29 patients, including 17 children, have been picked up
by Syrian relief workers, but the UN has a list of
nearly 500 people in need of better care than they can
get in the enclave, which is occupied by government
forces. In return, the Rebels have released 29
prisoners. The settlement is being questioned by, among
other things, the refugee coordinator Jan Egeland with
the motivation that sick people, not least children, are
used as tiles in a negotiation game.
Distrust of the Sochi Conference
A peace conference on Syria will be held in Sochi at
the end of January, Russia, Iran and Turkey announce.
About 40 opposition groups soon reject no; Russia puts
no pressure on the Assad government to reach a political
settlement, the groups write in a joint statement.
Sunni society is bombed
In Idlib province in the northwest, 19 people,
including many children, lose their lives in a plane
crash against a rebel-controlled city. According to
opposition SOHR, which disseminates the information, it
was likely Russian planes bombed Maar Shurin. The
community has a Sunni Muslim population and is said to
be a stronghold for an armed group with previous ties to
UN assistance to rebel areas
The UN Security Council is voting to continue
transporting aid through Turkey and Jordan to
rebel-controlled areas for a year. Russia, China and
Bolivia abstain. Russia claims that the need has
diminished and wants deliveries to be gradually reduced.
Weapon deliveries without permission
Weapons manufactured in Europe have been found by IS
forces, claims the organization Conflict Armament
Research (CAR). According to CAR, the weapons were sold
to the United States and Saudi Arabia, but later, mostly
without permission from the exporting countries, were
passed on to Syrian opposition forces. IS has
subsequently managed to get over the weapons, including
UN negotiations unsuccessful
According to mediator Staffan de Mistura, the eighth
UN attempt to get to peace talks is ending without any
real negotiations between the Assad government and the
Putin announces stepping down
President Putin visits the Russian air base in Syria
and says that the Russian forces should begin to
withdraw. Five days earlier, he has claimed that "both
beaches of the Euphrates River" have been cleared from
IS moorings. The Euphrates flows from Turkey, through
Syria and further south through Iraq and IS-jihadists
have controlled a number of Syrian communities along the
river. According to the opposition group Syrian Human
Rights Observatory, there are "pockets" in the east
where IS opposes.
Price for refugee in Sweden
Mohamad Al Jounde, a Syrian refugee living in Sweden,
receives the Children's International Peace Prize. The
16-year-old and his family have organized schooling in a
refugee camp in Lebanon. The award is presented by the
Kids Rights Foundation. The award winner in The Hague is
the Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai, who herself has
received the award in the past.
Local elections in the north
In Kurdish dominated areas in the north, municipal
elections are conducted. It is the second step of three
in a process that will assert the self-government in
practice that emerged during the war years. In January
elections are scheduled for a regional parliament. The
Syrian government disapproves of the plans, but has
signaled readiness to discuss any form of
self-government. The Kurds, who are estimated to make up
15 percent of Syria's population, say that the interests
of other minorities are also catered for.
Peace talks are extended
The Geneva peace talks will be extended until
December 15. The government side has found itself, but
refuses to discuss one of the main demands of the
opponents: that Bashar al-Assad cannot lead a future
Syria. UN mediator Staffan de Mistura notes that there
are plenty of other issues that need to be resolved,
including the need for a new constitution and
UN-supervised elections. Several countries have
announced their willingness to contribute to post-war
UN conversation in Geneva
The UN opens new peace talks in Geneva. Syrian
opposition groups have formed a joint negotiating
delegation, but it remains uncertain whether the
government will participate. The Assad regime has
strengthened its positions on the ground with the help
of Russia's military efforts, which began in 2015, and
is expected to show little compromise. The government
side, which is pushing both domestic opponents and IS
jihadists, is estimated to control about 55 percent of
the country's area, especially the most populated areas.
Just over 1,700 Americans in Syria
US defense headquarters promise greater openness
about military operations abroad. The message about the
size of the troops has been unclear, but a quarterly
report shows that on September 30, the United States had
1,720 people in place in Syria, more than previously
stated. In Syria, the United States supports opponents
of the Assad regime and fights against the Islamic State
(IS). Significantly more Americans are serving in
Afghanistan and Iraq.
Air strikes outside Damascus
In the Eastern Ghuta near Damascus, the government
side attacks rebels with air strikes and artillery,
despite the fact that the area is covered by agreements
with, among other things, Russia to reduce the combat
efforts. According to the Opposition Syrian Human Rights
Observatory (SOHR), at least 23 civilians die. SOHR
claims that it is possible to verify that a total of at
least 340,000 people have been killed since the civil
war began in 2011.
Putin tracks concessions from everyone
In order to achieve peace in Syria, "concessions from
all parties, including the Syrian government, are
required," says Vladimir Putin in Russia as he discussed
the situation with President colleagues Erdogan from
Turkey and Rohani from Iran. Putin sees no contradiction
between their joint Syria initiative and the UN's
Many pull the threads
President Bashar al-Assad is being welcomed in
Russian Sochi, where President Vladimir Putin is
planning for a summit on Syria the next day with
Presidents Erdogan from Turkey and Rohani from Iran.
While Russia, Iran and Turkey are "kneading" their
tripartite initiative, a separate development linked to
UN Syria talks: 140 Syrian opposites gather in Saudi
Arabia, where Staffan de Mistura, who leads UN talks,
hopes the opposition will be able to unite behind a
joint negotiating delegation. The UN organization Ocha,
which coordinates humanitarian efforts, reports that
13.1 million Syrians need assistance, despite the war
being slowed down. According to Ocha, 5.6 million
syringes are urgent.
UN mandate expires
The final day for UN and OPCW experts responsible for
investigating the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian
war. The JIM Joint Commission was established in 2015
and extended its mandate in 2016. Now, the insomnia is
deep in the US-Russia Security Council regarding the
Commission's conclusion that the Assad regime made use
of the nerve-poisoned sarin in Khan Shaykhun. JIM has
previously concluded that the regime used chlorine gas
and IS jihadists mustard gas. Russia uses its right of
veto in the Security Council to stop the extension of
Air strikes against market in the north
Several air strikes are being carried out against the
city of al-Atarib in western Aleppo province. The
attacks should have claimed up to 60 lives in the city
market and there are children among the victims. The
informants point out either the Syrian Air Force or the
Assad regime's Russian allies as responsible. al-Atarib
is in a zone where war actions are to be stepped down,
according to a previous settlement between Russia, Iran
Amnesty: War Crimes at Siege
The government's long siege, with bombardment against
its own population, which preceded local "reconciliation
settlements" constitutes crimes against humanity and war
crimes, writes Amnesty who has analyzed four cases where
local agreements were concluded between August 2016 and
March 2017. Opposition groups are also guilty of war
crimes to besiege civilians, according to the human
Trump and Putin are discussing Syria
US President Donald Trump and Russia's Vladmir Putin
meet in conjunction with an Asia Summit. A statement
from them states that "there is no military solution" in
Syria. But they emphasize that IS should be fought. All
combatants are urged to participate in UN talks on Syria
in Geneva, with the next round on November 28.
The last battle against IS in urban environment
The Islamic State (IS) has been expelled from Albu
Kamal in the province of Dayr al-Zawr (Deir Ezzor), the
government army announces. But the fighting continues,
with a setback for the army, for almost two weeks before
the army manages to expel IS from the city. The
community has been described as IS's last stronghold in
the urban environment in Syria.
Climate summit without Syria
Syria receives no invitation to the climate summit to
be held in Paris in December, France's foreign ministry
said. During climate negotiations in Germany, Syrian
representatives have announced that the country will
join the international Paris agreement to keep global
warming down. Thus, the United States, which is about to
leave the settlement, would be the only country standing
Russian criticism of UN investigators
In the report where the UN and expertise from the
OPCW give the Syrian government responsibility for the
use of sarin in Khan Shaykhun in April, the
investigators draw wrong conclusions, Russia claims. The
fact that there was sarin is confirmed, but Russia
believes that the poison was already in place and that
responsibility should be sought on the rebel side.
Another IS bracket is falling
The government army states that it has occupied the
city of Dayr al-Zawr (Deir Ezzor) on the Euphrates
River. The lion's share of the Ottoman city from the
19th century has been in the hands of the Islamic State
Exile organization says no to meeting
A Syrian umbrella organization in exile, the SNC,
dismisses the invitation from Moscow for a meeting in
Sochi on November 18 with the government of Bashar
al-Assad and other parties in the ongoing war. Russia,
Iran and Turkey's peace initiatives, which are running
in parallel with UN-led meetings, are dismissed as
"laughable". UN mediator Staffan de Mistura has called
for a new round of talks in Geneva on November 28.
A meeting with many parties is planned
Russia, Turkey and Iran pledge to try to bring the
Syrian government and its counterparts to a conference.
An invitation to a meeting in Sochi on November 18 has
been sent to 33 Syrian organizations, Russian Foreign
Ministry reports. Both Russia and Iran support the Assad
government while Turkey supports some rebel forces.
UN: Assad forces used sarin
UN experts who examined the events in Khan Shaykhun
on April 4 announce their conclusion: they have
concluded that it was the government side that made use
of the poison gas sarin. According to UN data, 83 people
died. The report increases the pressure on President
Russian veto against extended review
Russia vetoes UN Security Council against extending
an expert investigation into who bears responsibility
for the use of nuclear weapons in Khan Shaykhun. It is
reported to be the ninth time Russia vetoes a UN action
that could have negative consequences for the regime in
Refugees exposed in Idlib
800,000 internally displaced people live in very
difficult circumstances in about 400 camps in the Idlib
province, says the Turkish Red Crescent. In recent
months, Idlib has been controlled by a rebel group
linked to al-Qaeda. Turkish military has begun to act in
the province and cross-border aid shipments are in
cooperation with the UN, but security situation prevents
aid in many places.
Final battle in al-Raqqa
An alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias with US
support says after four months of siege and fighting to
control the city of al-Raqqa, which has been the basis
for the IS expansion of jihadi in Syria and Iraq. The
hospital and a square where IS held public executions
are inaugurated, finally also a sports arena where a few
dozen jihadists continued to resist. Syrian IS fighters
and their families have been allowed to leave the city,
but not jihadists from abroad, the Kurdish-Arab alliance
Evacuation from al-Raqqa
Jihadists who fought for the Islamic State (IS) in
the city of al-Raqqa will be allowed to leave the city
according to a deal negotiated by clan leaders. The
city's fall to US-led forces is approaching, but about
500 IS fighters are said to hold some 400 civilians
hostage. To reduce the risk of civilians in a bloody
final battle, jihadists should be able to leave the
city, to the IS-controlled area. The future of foreign
jihadists is not determined.
Muted armed groups
According to a public inquiry, French cement company
Lafarge has paid bribes to armed groups to protect its
personnel in Syria. One of the groups is the Islamic
State (IS). The company must have bought oil from
locations in the north where IS controlled production.
Lafarge has wanted to keep its business ahead of the
reconstruction Syria will need. Employees state that
they were forced to work despite the risks.
Intensive fighting is raging
The Civil War has reached its highest level of
violence since the battle of the big city of Aleppo in
2016, according to the International Red Cross
Committee. In particular, the fighting is fierce at
al-Raqqa and Dayr al-Zawr (Deir Ezzor) where efforts are
being made to drive away the Islamic State (IS).
Civilian escapes and ten hospitals across the country
have only been injured in the last ten days.
Traces of sarin in village in the north
The organization OPCW, which works for a ban on
chemical weapons, states that the nerve gas sarin was
used in northern Syria in March 2017, several days
before the deadly and more prominent attack on Khan
Shaykhun. According to OPCW chief Ahmet Üzümcü, samples
taken at the village of Latamneh have shown traces of
sarin. No deaths have been reported from the village. In
total, OPCW is investigating 45 suspected nuclear
weapons attacks since mid-2016.
Ready to talk about Kurdish autonomy
The Syrian government is prepared to negotiate
self-government for the Kurds, says Foreign Minister
Walid al-Muallim. The statement is described as the
first in that direction by the government. Before the
war, the Kurds made up about 15 percent of Syria's
population. At the same time, the Foreign Minister
criticized Iraqi Kurds' decision to hold a referendum on
independence in northern Iraq.
Clear sign for deportation
A court in Greece decides that two Syrians, who have
been refused the asylum application, may be forced to
return to Turkey as they passed on their way home. The
decision opens the door for deportation in several
hundred cases where Syrians are not considered to have
The fate of IS leaders is being investigated
The United States is still trying to clarify whether
Islamic State's (IS) supreme leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
is alive. The jihadist leader has been reported killed
several times after war events, including during a
Russian attack on a meeting between IS commanders. Now a
recording of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is being reviewed,
which is said to be newly made.
Attack on suspected nuclear weapons factory
Israel air strikes, from Lebanese airspace, a
facility near Masyaf between the city of Hama and a port
used by the Russian fleet. The Syrian regime has been
accused of producing nuclear weapons at the site. At
least two fatalities are reported after the attack.
UN: Syrian Air Force used sarin
UN investigators now officially say they have
evidence that the Syrian Air Force used poison gas sarin
in the April 4 attack on Khan Shaykhun, which claimed at
least 83 lives. The investigators give the government
side responsibility for a further 23 attacks since 2013
where nuclear weapons were used.
al-Raqqa's city center
A rebel alliance with US support says it has taken
full control of al-Raqqa's old city center, but the city
still has an IS headquarters and about 25,000 civilians.
IS entered the city in 2014 and made it the capital of
the jihadist movement.
Want to investigate disappearances
An independent investigation should be done as soon
as possible of what happened to missing persons and of
mass graves found, emphasizes Human Rights Watch. There
are no estimates of the number lost during the war, and
still no outside organization has access to prison camps
of the warring parties.
Return to Aleppo
More than 600,000 refugees have returned home since
the beginning of the year, most to Aleppo, according to
the International Migration Organization (IOM). 84% of
them have been internally refugees, the rest have been
in neighboring countries. Many think that the security
situation has improved, others are going home to look
after relatives and assets.
The UN veteran resigns in protest
A UN commission that collects material on human
rights violations has enough evidence to bring President
Bashar al-Assad to trial, Carla del Ponte claims in
interviews. She, who has experience as a prosecutor in
the UN General Court of Former Yugoslavia, has, along
with the other two in the Commission, pressed the UN to
make it a judicial process. She leaves the Syrian
Commission on September 18, in frustration.
IS retreat in the home province
Syrian government forces have begun to enter the city
of al-Sukhna, the last IS stronghold in the Hom
Province. The IS forces in the area are retreating.
al-Sukhna lies seven miles northeast of the ancient ruin
city of Palmyra. The government side is on the offensive
with Russian support in the large desert area to the
east which separates Damascus from cities on the
Polio vaccine for children
The World Health Organization (WHO) has delivered
more than half a million doses of polio vaccine to Dayr
al-Zawr and Qamishli. There, a vaccination campaign
aimed at children under five years is to be carried out.
Russian military police patrol
Russian military police have begun patrolling two
areas, one in the southwest and one in the Eastern Ghuta
near Damascus. Eastern Ghuta, where rebels have long
been surrounded by the government army, is one of four
zones in a peace plan rallyed by Russia, Iran and Turkey
(see May 4, 2017). At the end of July,
the UN supplies emergency relief to people in Eastern
Ghuta who have lived under siege for five years.
The EU is increasing penalties
The EU expands the list of Syrian regime
representatives (military and scientists) who are
charged with sanctions with 16 names, to 255. The motive
is the development and use of nuclear weapons. The
penalties involve travel bans and frozen assets. There
are a number of other sanctions against the regime in
force, including stops for the purchase of materials
that can be used in warfare.
High death rates are reported
The Syrian Human Rights Observatory opposition group
claims to have identified a total of 331,765 killed
since the uprising broke out in spring 2011. Of these,
99,617 were civilians (18,243 children and 11,427 women
were included). Data on warriors who have fallen divided
the observatory into three categories: 116,774 on the
government side (including Lebanese Hezbollah warriors),
57,000 rebels (Arabs and Kurds who oppose the Assad
regime) and 58,000 jihadists (sympathizers to IS and
al-Qaeda, many from other countries).
Armistice comes into force in the southwest
An armistice comes into force in southwestern Syria
in the Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida regions. The ceasefire
is the result of several months of secret negotiations
between Russian and US diplomats and officials. The
ceasefire is announced after President Trump and Putin's
first meeting, during the G20 summit in Hamburg,
Germany, July 7 to 9. Jordan supports the initiative.
US-backed forces reach Raqqa's city wall
The US-backed forces in Syria have broken through the
wall surrounding the old part of Raqqa, the terrorist
organization IS "capital", according to the US military.
"IS has left Aleppo"
Islamic State is no longer present in the province of
Aleppo, according to a statement by Rami Abdel Rahman,
head of the human rights organization Syrian Observatory
for Human Rights. IS, which has been in Aleppo for four
years, has withdrawn from the villages and cities as
government forces have advanced.
Sarin was used in attack
A UN investigation confirms that the gas used in the
April attack in Idlib province was sarin (see
April 2017). Experts at the Organization for
the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the UN
will now conduct an investigation to determine whether
Syrian government forces were behind the attack.
Warning from USA
The White House issues a warning to President Bashar
al-Assad after signs of attention suggest that the
Syrian regime is preparing for yet another chemical
weapons attack. The US threatens that Assad and his
military will pay a "high price" if they use chemical
France gives priority to overthrowing Assad
France's new President Emmanuel Macron says that the
highest priority in Syria is to fight jihadists, not to
oust President Assad. "Nobody has shown me a legitimate
successor," Macron tells several European newspapers.
The statement is met with sharp criticism from the
New peace talks are planned
The next round of peace talks in Astana will be held
on July 4-5, states Russia and Kazakhstan. The talks
were supposed to have been held in June but have been
postponed due to disagreement over the security zones
that were decided in May. The UN envoy di Mistura has
said that a seventh round of talks in Geneva will start
on July 10.
The US shoots down military planes
An American fighter jet shoots down a Syrian plane
after it dropped bombs near US-allied forces on the
ground. The shooting takes place near Tabqa, where
Syria's Democratic Forces (SDF) have fought against IS
as part of the attempts to take Raqqa back. This is the
first time the US-led alliance is shooting down a Syrian
plane, and Damascus warns that it could have "dangerous
repercussions". Russia is also strongly critical, saying
that the direct telephone line established in October
2015 between the US and Russia will now be broken. The
purpose of the line was to avoid accidentally attacking
Polio spreads to the north
New cases of polio disease have been discovered.
Within a couple of weeks, the World Health Organization
(WHO) confirms 17 cases, almost all in the region of
Mayadin. The medical journal The Lancet reports that
belligerents attacked hospitals, clinics or healthcare
professionals more than 400 times over the course of a
year, from the end of 2015 to the end of 2016.
The US is arming Kurdish forces
The US has begun delivering weapons to Kurdish forces
fighting IS in northern Syria, the Pentagon's defense
headquarters confirms. The weapons deliveries, which
occur in the face of an offensive against IS's main
remaining stronghold al-Raqqa, upset neighboring Turkey,
which is also one of the US allies in NATO.
Evacuation from Damascus
The final step is carried out in the evacuation of
several thousand government opponents and civilians from
Damascus. The rebels with families are given free rein
to areas in northern Syria held by the opposition. The
government side now controls the capital as much as a
handful of districts.
Map for Aleppo's reconstruction
The world-class city of Aleppo, which was recaptured
by government forces at the end of 2016, is severely
ravaged by the war. In Cottbus, Germany, expertise has
produced a detailed map of the city and its historical
gems that can be used on the day a reconstruction can
Evacuation from Homs
In the city of Homs, an evacuation of rebels and
their relatives ends, totaling about 15 | 000 people.
They are given free rein to rebel-controlled territory.
Russian soldiers should ensure the security of the
neighborhoods they leave.
Constitutional issues "on the table"
At UN-led talks in Switzerland, representatives of
the Syrian government and opposition agreed to form
groups to discuss constitutional issues. It is described
as a first concrete success in the sluggish
Alliance consumes dust
An alliance of Kurdish and Arab forces fighting with
US support is reported to have occupied the city of
Tabqa and a nearby dam held by IS.
New leader for SNC
The opposition group Syrian National Coalition (SNC),
which has its base in exile, appoints a well-known
dissident to its new leader: 77-year-old Riad Seif.
During his many years as MP, Seif was one of the few who
dared to openly criticize the government. Seif was
imprisoned for eight years after the turn of the
millennium to organize roundtable talks on human rights
issues in his home. He succeeds Anas al-Abdeh, who was
elected leader of the alliance in March 2016.
Security zones shall be established
Russia, Iran and Turkey sign a deal to set up four
security zones, in regions that the regime does not
control. It is a concrete result of the recent round of
talks in Kazakhstan. According to the agreement, fire
ceases to exist in the zones and no air strikes may be
conducted there. Residents in the zones should receive
rapid humanitarian assistance and refugees should be
allowed to return. The zones are scheduled to be
established on June 4. The first zone covers the entire
Idlib province as well as parts of the provinces of
Latakia, Aleppo and Homs; the second zone consists of
certain areas in the northern part of the Homs region;
the third comprises parts of the Eastern Ghuta outside
Damascus; the fourth consists of parts of Daraa and
Quneitra provinces in southern Syria. The zones also
include areas controlled by the regime.
"Government raises chemo attacks"
The human rights organization Human Rights Watch
claims that the Syrian government has used lethal nerve
gas in four attacks in recent years, including the
high-profile attack on the village of Khan Shaykhun in
April. According to HRW, the government has stepped up
the number of chlorine attacks and deployed missiles
filled with chlorine even in battles around the capital.
"In the past six months, the government has used
warplanes, helicopters and ground forces to carry out
attacks with chlorine and nerve gas sarin in Damascus,
Hama, Idlib and Aleppo, HRW writes in a report.
"Israeli attack on airport"
Syria accuses Israel of firing multiple missiles and
thus causing a large explosion near Damascus Airport.
Israel, as usual, does not comment on Israeli attacks on
targets in Syria. Russia pronounces condemnation and
urges Israel to restraint.
Turkish forces in border fighting with YPG
26th of April
Tensions are rising along Syria's border with Turkey
after 28 people were killed in a Turkish bombing in
northeastern Syria. The target of the attack was the
Kurdish guerrilla YPG. The next day, battles erupt
across the border between Turkish forces and guerrilla
US attacks military base
As a result of the nervous gas attack on the village
of Khan Shaykhun a few days earlier, US President Donald
Trump commands an attack on Syria. 59 cruise missiles
are fired from vessels in the Mediterranean against the
military base from which the attack should have ended.
It is the first time during the war that the United
States is attacking the Syrian regime's positions.
According to the US Department of Defense, Russia was
informed of the attack in advance. Trump calls on "all
civilized nations" to help put an end to the war.
Russian President Putin condemns the attack.
Over 86 dead in gas attack
At least 86 people, including 30 children, are killed
in a poison gas attack on the rebel-controlled village
of Khan Shaykhun in Idlib province. According to
witnesses, clinics are then attacked where over 160
injured are cared for. The government denies that it
carried out any gas attack. Russia states that the gas
was released when Syrian planes bombed one of the
rebels' military stores in the city and hit containers
with chemicals. The Russian version is dismissed by a
rebel leader who says it clearly appeared that the gas
was emitted from the government's plan, and an
international arms expert said that gas could not be
distributed in the way Russia claims.
The United States is changing its position on Assad
The United States announces that the country is
seeking a new strategy in the Syrian war and for the
first time openly admits that President Assad's
departure is no longer the most important goal. In a
conversation with a group of journalists in Washington,
United States Ambassador Nikki Haley says the US will
now work with powers such as Turkey and Russia to bring
about a political solution.
Russia trains Kurds
A spokesman for the Kurdish YPG militia states that
an agreement has been signed with Russia on training the
militia's soldiers. According to the spokesman, Russian
instructors are already in place in Kurdish-controlled
"Israel fires Syrian missile"
A military source in Israel states that Syria has
fired a missile against Israel over the weekend, which
should have been fired by Israel's missile defense.
Confrontation with Israel
Syria's army claims to have shot down an Israeli
plane that was targeting targets near the city of
Palmyra. Israel admits that the country's air force
carried a raid near Palmyra but denies that any plane
should have been shot down. During the war, Israel has
on several occasions attacked targets in Syria to stop
arms transports to the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, but
it is unusual for Israel to confirm that a scare has
taken place. The confrontation at Palmyra is the most
serious between Israel and Syria since the war started.
In a comment, Israel's defense minister warns Syria to
attack Israeli flights again, saying that if that
happens, Israel will destroy its air defense "without
any doubt." President Assad said in a comment that the
country must defend its borders and that Russia could
help Syria stop attacks from Israel. In Moscow, the
Israeli ambassador is called up to the Foreign Ministry
to discuss what has happened.
More than 320,000 deaths were noted
the 13th of March
SOHR states that the organization has now documented
just over 320,000 deaths as a result of the war. More
than 96,000 of those killed are civilians, of which just
over 17,000 are children. The UN announces that 4.9
million Syrians have moved abroad while 6.6 million have
become internal refugees.
Talk without the opposition
14th of March
A third round of talks on the future of Syria is held
in Kazakhstan's capital Astana, but this time the
opposition is not represented with reference to crimes
against the ceasefire by the government.
Double attack against Shia Muslims
11th of March
At least 74 people lose their lives in a double
attack targeted at visitors to Syria's most important
Shiite Muslim shrine south of Damascus. A bus with
pilgrims is blown up by a road bomb in the old town of
Damascus. Other victims are killed by a suicide bomber.
The victims include 43 Iraqi pilgrims and 8 children.
The US strengthens military presence
The United States announces that 400 Marines will be
sent to Syria to assist the coalition of rebels and
Kurds advancing against Raqqa to recapture the city from
the Islamic State.
Cautious optimism in Geneva
A first round of talks ends at new negotiations in
Geneva. UN envoy Staffan de Mistura states that the
parties have now agreed on an "agenda" to try to put an
end to the conflict, and the opposition says this round
has been "more positive" than previous negotiation
attempts. Another round of talks is scheduled to start
on March 23.
IS is operated from a bracket in the north
Turkey announces that Turkish forces and rebels
allied with Turkey have taken control of the city of
al-Bab at the border with Turkey in northern Syria.
al-Bab was IS's last stronghold in the province of
Nuclear weapons sanctions are stopped
Russia and China stop with their vetoes a resolution
on Syria in the UN Security Council. The resolution
would have resulted in sanctions against eleven
high-ranking Syrians, most military, and ten bodies that
were considered to be linked to nuclear weapons attacks
against rebel areas in 2014 and 2015.
New resultless peace talks
A new meeting on the situation in Syria is being held
in Kazakhstan with representatives of the rebels and the
government. As in January, Russia, Turkey and Iran are
the hosts. The calls, which are conducted through
agents, do not lead to any practical results.
Mass executions by hanging
Amnesty International accuses the Syrian regime of
executing up to 13,000 people over a five-year period by
hanging in the infamous Saydnaya Prison a few miles
north of Damascus. Amnesty states that the organization
obtained the information by interviewing 84 witnesses,
including guards, prisoners and judges. The government
rejects the information as "completely false".
New attempts at peace talks
A new attempt is being made to start a dialogue
between the government and the rebels. The parties
gather in Kazakhstan's capital Astana with Russia, Iran
and Turkey as mediators. The most extreme rebel groups,
IS and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, are not included. The talks
will deal with three issues: ceasefire, humanitarian aid
and prisoners. The talks last for two days and end
without any concrete progress.
Turkish turnaround on Assad
Turkey says for the first time openly that it is
unrealistic to continue insisting that President Assad
be put outside a resolution of the Syrian conflict.
Russia and Turkey are allies in the efforts to bring
about a peace settlement, but during the war have been
on each side of the conflict. Russia supports Assad
while Turkey demanded Assad's departure from the
beginning. In 2016, there were signs that the Turkish
attitude was under review.
Date of peace talks
Russia announces that peace talks will start in
Kazakhstan's capital Astana on January 23. The talks are
intended, among other things, to reinforce the fragile
truce that was concluded at the end of December.
Russia brings home strengths
Moscow announces that the Russian military has begun
to scale down its presence in Syria. According to a
spokesman for the military, a group of warships with the
aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov will now withdraw
from the area.