Nearly seven years of conflict in Syria

 26 Nov 2017 - 9:09

Nearly seven years of conflict in Syria

AFP

Beirut: From the bloody repression of peaceful protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad to foreign intervention, below are key dates in Syria's nearly seven-year civil war.

The complex war has left more than 340,000 people dead, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, while the country lies in ruins. 

- Revolt and repression -

On March 15, 2011, unprecedented protests demand civil liberties and freedom for political prisoners after 40 years of repressive rule by the Assad family.

Denouncing "an armed rebellion by Salafist groups", the regime represses demonstrations in Damascus and the southern city of Daraa but protests continue.

In July, defecting army colonel Riad al-Assad sets up the Turkey-based rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA). Islamist groups join the revolt.

- Air strikes - 

In March 2012, regime forces take control of the rebels' stronghold in the city of Homs after a month of bombardments. Other bloody operations are carried out, notably in the central city of Hama after massive anti-regime protests.

In July, FSA fighters launch a battle for Damascus, but the government holds firm.

From 2013, regime helicopters and planes unleash barrel bombs on rebel zones.

- Hezbollah's crucial role -

In April 2013, the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah says it is fighting alongside Syrian government forces.

Iran boosts its military support for longtime ally Assad.

- Chemical weapons -

On August 21, 2013, rebel-backer Washington accuses the regime of killing more than 1,400 people with chemical weapons in rebel-held districts near Damascus.

In September, the United States and Assad ally Russia agree a plan to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons, averting punitive US strikes against the regime.

But the forces on the ground, in particular the regime, have since been accused of having used chemical weapons.

In April 2017, a sarin gas attack on the opposition-held village of Khan Sheikhun leaves more than 80 dead, prompting Washington to attack a regime air base.

- Rise of the jihadists -

In January 2014, hostilities between jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and rebel groups turn into an open war in the north.

ISIL, which has since become the Islamic State group, take Raqa, the first provincial capital to fall out of regime control, from rebel forces.

The jihadist offensive allows Damascus to justify its fight against "terrorism". 

- Coalition air strikes -

In September 2014, a US-led coalition launches air strikes against IS in Syria.

The strikes benefit Kurdish groups, which since 2013 have run semi-autonomous administrations in Kurdish-majority areas and go on to oust the IS from key areas. 

- Russia to Assad's aid -

On September 30, 2015 Russia launches air strikes in support of Assad's troops, on the back foot since March 2015.

The Russian firepower helps turn the tables for the regime, which begins to retake rebel-held territory, including the northern city of Aleppo in late December 2016.

- Putin prepares post-conflict - 

In January 2017, Russia and Iran, as backers of the Syrian regime, and Turkey, supporting the rebels, organise talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, between representatives of both sides. 

The Astana process leads to the creation of four so-called "de-escalation zones", although sporadic fighting and bombardment continue.

Moscow has since been seeking a political follow-up to this process, while the United Nations has continued to shepherd talks in Geneva.