+963 is the dialing code for Syria.
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.
- Abbreviationfinder: 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.
|Cultivated land||75.8 %|
|Land area||185180 km 2|
Population and health
|Population development||-0.16 ‰|
|Urban population (Urbanization)||57.7 %|
|Death rate||4 per 1000 residents|
|Life expectancy: Women||77.21 years|
|Life expectancy: Men||72.31 years|
|Birth rate||22.17 births per 1000 residents|
|Infant mortality||15.61 deaths / 1000 births|
Population Graph Source: Countryaah.com
|Electricity, production||29480 million kWh|
|Energy consumption per inhabitant||701.2 kg. oil per resident|
|Natural gas, production||5300 million cubic meters|
|Crude oil, production||1 million tons|
|Internet users||26.7 per 100 residents|
|Mobile subscriptions||87 per 100 residents|
|Passenger cars||73 per 1000 residents|
Business and economics
|Unemployment||57.7% of the workforce|
|GDP||5100 per resident|
|Primary occupations||17 %|
|Secondary profession||16 %|
|Tertiary professions||67 %|
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 Heights.
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 inland.
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 level).
185 180 km2 (2018)
Swedish +1 hour
Adjacent country (s)
Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey
Capital with number of residents
Damascus 2.6 million (Sources: Allcitypopulation.com)
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 government’s control.
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 al Qaeda.
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 armor shots.
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 opposition.
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 reconstruction.
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 ongoing peacemaking.
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 JIM’s mission.
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 and Turkey.
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 rights organization.
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 outside.
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 since 2014.
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 Bashar al-Assad.
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 Syria.
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 says.
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 refugee grounds.
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 Euphrates River.
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 weapons again.
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 Syrian opposition.
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 each other.
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 take off.
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 negotiations.
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 units.
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 areas.
“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 Aleppo.
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.