03/11/2021, 16.24
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Syrian conflict, from internal uprising to proxy war (FACT SHEET)

Damascus (AsiaNews) – The street riots in March 2011 during the Arab Spring protests have creating a tragic situation. The country has been devasted with millions of refugees, while 60 per cent of the population is food-insecure. A local crisis has turned into a proxy war between regional and world powers waged on the backs of the people. Here are the main stages of the Syrian conflict:

March 2011 – Uprising

Protests break out after years of repressive rule by Assad.

Despite the regime’s violent crackdown protests continue.

An armed rebellion erupts with support from Western and Arab countries. The rebels seize large swathes of territory, including the centre of third city Homs and a chunk of Aleppo, Syria's business capital.

In October 2011, Syrian opposition leaders meet in Istanbul to declare the creation of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC).

Hundreds are killed and thousands wounded.

2012 – Proxy war

In March 2012, the regime retakes Homs.

FSA fighters launch the battle for Damascus in July, but the regime retains control of the capital, with rebels seizing some suburbs.

In July, Kurdish militias take control of Afrin, Kobane, and Amuda.

World powers meet in Geneva and agree on the need for a political transition, but their divisions undermine UN-sponsored peace efforts.

SNC turns into the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. More than 100 countries recognise it as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

Aid agencies are overwhelmed with refugees in Lebanon and Iraq.

2013 – Ghouta and chemical weapons

Regime helicopters and planes begin air strikes, often with barrel bombs, on opposition and rebel areas.

Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah deploys fighters to back the Syrian regime.

Iran also boosts its support for Assad.

A chemical attack on two rebel and opposition-held areas in Eastern Ghouta near Damascus reportedly kills more than 1,400 people. The regime denies responsibility.

US and Russia (Obama and Putin) agree to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons arsenal.

An estimated 1.5 million Syrians have become refugees. 

2014 – Islamic State group

An al Qaeda splinter group seizes eastern Raqqa city in June 2014 before grabbing swathes of territory across Syria and Iraq, declaring a new caliphate and renaming itself the Islamic State (or Daesh).

Washington builds an anti-Daesh coalition under the Syrian Democratic Forces, primarily driven by the Kurdish YPG. This creates friction with its NATO ally Turkey.

Syria's war grows bloodier with the UN estimating that 6.5 million people are internally displaced, and more than three million displaced out of Syria.

2015 – Moscow joins in

Assad's forces lose ground to armed opposition while rebel groups seize Idlib. 

Dissidents and rebels come together in Saudi Arabia to form the High Negotiations Committee (HNC). It does not however include separate opposition groups in Cairo and Moscow.

Russia joins the war on Assad's side, deploying warplanes and giving military aid that soon, with the help of Iran. turns the course of conflict decisively against the rebels.

Three-year-old Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi drowns along with his brother and mother in the Mediterranean Sea off the Turkish coast. 

Images of his body washed ashore spark global outcry, turning him into the symbol of the refugees trying to leave Turkey for Europe.

2016 – Erdogan, the new sultan

Alarmed by PKK/YPG advances nears its southern border, Turkish President Recep Erdogan launches Operation Euphrates Shield with FSA rebels, carving a new zone of Turkish control that is extended in 2018 to northwestern Afrin.

The Syrian regime and its allies defeat rebels in their biggest urban base of Aleppo after months of siege and bombardment.

War has displaced almost six million Syrians.

2017 – US and Israeli missiles

Israel acknowledges having conducted air strikes against Lebanese Hezbollah fighters in Syria, to reduce Iran’s influence in Syria and the region.

Washington launches a first cruise missile attack on a Syrian regime airbase near Homs after an alleged poison gas attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun.

Kurdish and US forces defeat Daesh in Raqqa. The caliphate is left with few cells and isolated groups in desert areas.

The Cairo and Moscow opposition groups join the Saudi-based HNC, which is renamed the Syrian Negotiation Commission.

2018 – Russian-Turkish deal over Idlib

After months of blockade and intensive aerial raids, the Russian-backed Syrian regime recaptures Eastern Ghouta.

A Russian-Turkish deal over Idlib and the rebel-held northwest freezes the frontlines and areas of influence. Hundreds of civilians die in the last major opposition bastion.

Turkey along with mercenaries and extremist Islamic groups seize Afrin from Kurdish forces.

The number of displaced people reaches 6.2 million.

2019 – Partial US pullout

US forces retake the last Daesh-controlled area, in the east. The US decides partial withdrawal, but leaves some troops in oil-rich north-eastern Syria. Some analysts expect more violence following Trump’s disengagement.

A Russian-Turkish summit in October reduces fighting but truce doesn’t last as Moscow resumes the assault against last bastion of the anti-Assad opposition.

Ankara launches Operation Peace Spring in October targeting PKK/YPG forces in Syria, taking control of a 120-km-long strip along its border that runs 30-km into Syria.

Approximately 11.7 million Syrians are in desperate need of humanitarian aid. There are more than 6.2 million internally displaced Syrians.

A whole generation of children was born during the war and has known only war.

2020 – Turkey escalates in Syria

President Erdogan ratches up Turkey’s military involvement in Syria, deploying armed drones after 34 Turkish soldiers are killed by Syrian forces. The Assad regime suffers heavy losses, including over 3,000 soldiers, 151 tanks, eight helicopters, three drones, and three fighter jets.

A ceasefire is finally reached in March 2020 in Idlib that still holds, despite occasional violent incidents.

Some 6.7 million Syrians are displaced. The humanitarian and economic crisis, tied to that in Lebanon, gets worse.

2021 – A heavy toll

Since the first uprising in March 2011, 12 million Syrians have become displaced. Some 5.6 million refugees are spread around the world, mostly in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. Around 6.2 million people are internally displaced. Some 12.4 million Syrians, nearly 60 per cent of the population, are now food-insecure.

More than 400,000 people are dead. 

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