Syrian crisis

Six years of conflict in Syria

Peaceful protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011. They were harshly repressed, prompting an armed uprising that descended into a complex nationwide conflict.

A woman walks up a street lined with heavily-damaged buildings in former rebel-held district of Shaar that Syrian government forces recaptured in December, in picture taken on March 9
A woman walks up a street lined with heavily-damaged buildings in former rebel-held district of Shaar that Syrian government forces recaptured in December, in picture taken on March 9 (AFP)

BEIRUT - Syria's devastating six-year civil war has left the country in ruins.
Peaceful protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011. They were harshly repressed, prompting an armed uprising that descended into a complex nationwide conflict.
The war has left more than 320,000 people dead, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

Revolt and repression
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, defected Syrian army colonel Riyadh al-Assad sets up the Turkey-based rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA). Islamist groups join the revolt.

Air power
March 1, 2012: Regime forces seize rebel-held Baba Amr in Homs city after 27 days of heavy shelling.
July 17, 2012: FSA fighters launch a battle for Damascus, but the government holds firm.
From 2013, the regime pounds rebel strongholds across the country with improvised barrel bombs.

Allies enter the picture
April 2013: The powerful Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah says it is fighting alongside regime forces.
Iran boosts its military support for longtime ally Assad, who belongs to the Shiite-linked Alawite sect.

Chemical weapons
August 21, 2013: Rebel backer Washington accuses the regime of killing more than 1,400 people with chemical weapons in rebel districts near Damascus.
In September, the United States and Assad ally Russia agree a plan to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons, ruling out the threat of US strikes.

Rise of the jihadists
From 2013, jihadists, notably the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front, expand in the north at the expense of moderate rebels.
In 2014, the Islamic State group seizes swathes of territory, proclaiming a self-styled "caliphate" in areas it controls in Syria and Iraq.

International air strikes
In September 2014, US President Barack Obama vows to build an international coalition to defeat IS.
On September 23, the US, its Arab and European allies launch air strikes against IS in Syria.
The strikes benefit Kurdish groups, which had in 2013 declared "autonomous administrations" in northern Syria.
In January 2015, coalition-backed Kurdish fighters oust IS from the flashpoint border town of Kobane. 

Russia intervenes
September 30, 2015: Russia launches air strikes on Syria, saying it is targeting "terrorist groups" including IS. The opposition says Moscow is striking moderate rebels to bolster Assad.
The regime, on the back foot since March 2015, begins to retake territory.

Turkey intervenes
August 24, 2016: Turkey launches Operation Euphrates Shield in Aleppo province to tackle both IS and Washington-backed Kurdish militias Ankara considers "terrorists".

Regime retakes Aleppo
September 22, 2016: Syria's army announces a major offensive to retake rebel-held eastern Aleppo.
Syria's second city and former economic capital had been divided between rebel and regime control since 2012.
December 22, 2016: The army declares it has full control of Aleppo after a final convoy of civilians and rebel fighters leaves under a withdrawal deal.

Ceasefire and talks
December 29, 2016: Russian President Vladimir Putin announces a nationwide ceasefire, saying warring parties will meet for Russian, Turkish and Iranian-backed talks.

Pressure on IS
In early November 2016, the US-backed Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) target IS "capital" Raqa.
Ankara is hostile to the idea, fearing Kurdish gains in Syria could embolden Kurds in Turkey to demand independence.
Damascus says taking Raqa is one of its own top priorities.