Middle East

Syria profile - Timeline

A chronology of key events:

1918 October - Arab troops led by Emir Feisal, and supported by British forces, capture Damascus, ending 400 years of Ottoman rule.

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Image caption The Ottoman governor of Syria, Jamal Pasha, rides through Damascus in 1917

1919 - Emir Feisal backs Arab self-rule at the Versailles peace conference, following the defeat of Germany and the Ottoman Empire in World War I.

1919 June - Elections for a Syrian National Congress are held. The new assembly includes delegates from Palestine.

1920 March - The National Congress proclaims Emir Feisal king of Syria "in its natural boundaries" from the Taurus mountains in Turkey to the Sinai desert in Egypt.

French control

1920 June - San Remo conference splits up Feisal's newly-created Arab kingdom by placing Syria-Lebanon under a French mandate, and Palestine under British control.

1920 July - French forces occupy Damascus, forcing Feisal to flee abroad.

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Image caption Aleppo, along with Damascus, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities

1920 August - France proclaims a new state of Greater Lebanon.

1922 - Syria is divided into three autonomous regions by the French, with separate areas for the Alawis on the coast and the Druze in the south.


1925-6 - Nationalist agitation against French rule develops into a national uprising. French forces bombard Damascus.

1928 - Elections held for a constituent assembly, which drafts a constitution for Syria. French High Commissioner rejects the proposals, sparking nationalist protests.

1936 - France agrees to Syrian independence in principle but signs an agreement maintaining French military and economic dominance.

1940 - World War II: Syria comes under the control of the Axis powers after France falls to German forces.

1941 - British and Free French troops occupy Syria. General De Gaulle promises to end the French mandate.

1945 - Protests over the slow pace of French withdrawal.

1946 - Last French troops leave Syria.

Baath Party founded

1947 - Michel Aflaq and Salah-al-Din al-Bitar found the Arab Socialist Baath Party.

1949 - Army officer Adib al-Shishakhli seizes power in the third military coup in the space of a year.

1952 - Al-Shishakli dissolves all political parties.

1954 - Army officers lead a coup against Al-Shishakli, but return a civilian government to power.

1955 - Veteran nationalist Shukri al-Quwatli is elected president. Syria seeks closer ties with Egypt.

United Arab Republic

1958 February - Syria and Egypt join the United Arab Republic (UAR). Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser heads the new state. He orders the dissolution of Syrian political parties, to the dismay of the Baath party, which had campaigned for union.

1961 September - Discontent with Egyptian domination of the UAR prompts a group of Syrian army officers to seize power in Damascus and dissolve the union.

1963 March - Army officers seize power. A Baathist cabinet is appointed and Amin al-Hafez becomes president.

Rise of Assad

1966 February - Salah Jadid leads an internal coup against the civilian Baath leadership, overthrowing Amin al-Hafez and arresting Salah al-Din al-Bitar and Michel Aflaq. Hafez al-Assad becomes defence minister.

1967 June - Israeli forces seize the Golan Heights from Syria and destroy much of Syria's air force in the Six Day War with Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

1970 November - Hafez al-Assad overthrows president Nur al-Din al-Atasi and imprisons Salah Jadid.

1971 March - Assad is elected president for a seven-year term in a plebiscite.

1973 - Rioting breaks out after Assad drops the constitutional requirement that the president must be a Muslim. He is accused of heading an atheist regime. The riots are suppressed by the army.

War with Israel

1973 October - Syria and Egypt go to war with Israel but fail to retake the Golan Heights seized during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

1974 May - Syria and Israel sign a disengagement agreement.

1975 February - Assad says he's prepared to make peace with Israel in return for an Israeli withdrawal from "all occupied Arab land".

1976 June - Syrian army intervenes in the Lebanese civil war to ensure that the status quo is maintained, and the Maronites remain in power.

1978 - In response to the Camp David peace agreement between Egypt and Israel, Assad sets out to gain strategic parity with Israel.


1980 - After the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Muslim groups instigate uprisings and riots in Aleppo, Homs and Hama. Assad begins to stress Syria's adherence to Islam. Syria profile

Syria profile

1980 - Muslim Brotherhood member tries to assassinate Assad.

1980 September - Start of Iran-Iraq war. Syria backs Iran, in keeping with the traditional rivalry between Baathist leaderships in Iraq and Syria.

1981 December - Israel annexes the Golan Heights.

Uprising in Hama

1982 February - Muslim Brotherhood uprising in the city of Hama. The revolt is suppressed by the military, whom rights organisations accuse of killing tens of thousands of civilians.

1982 June - Israel invades Lebanon and attacks the Syrian army, forcing it to withdraw from several areas. Israel attacks the PLO base in Beirut.

1983 May - Lebanon and Israel announce the end of hostilities. Syrian forces remain in Lebanon.

1983 - Assad suffers a heart attack, according to reports denied by authorities. Assad's brother Rifaat apparently prepares to take power.

1984 Rifaat is promoted to the post of vice-president.

Return to Lebanon

1987 February - Assad sends troops into Lebanon for a second time to enforce a ceasefire in Beirut.

1990 - Iraq invades Kuwait; Syria joins the US-led coalition against Iraq. This leads to improved relations with Egypt and the US.

1991 October - Syria participates in the Middle East peace conference in Madrid and holds talks with Israel that founder over the Golan Heights issue.

1994 - Assad's son Basil, who was likely to succeed his father, is killed in a car accident.

Rifaat sacked

1998 - Assad's brother Rifaat is "relieved of his post" as vice-president.

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Image caption Damascus urban sprawl

1999 December - Talks with Israel over the Golan Heights begin in the US, but are indefinitely postponed the following month.

Assad succession

2000 June - Assad dies and is succeeded by his second son, Bashar.

2000 November - The new President Assad orders the release of 600 political prisoners.

2001 April - Outlawed Muslim Brotherhood says it will resume political activity, 20 years after its leaders were forced to flee.

2001 5 May - Pope John Paul II pays historic visit.

2001 June - Syrian troops evacuate Beirut, redeploy in other parts of Lebanon, following pressure from Lebanese critics of Syria's presence.

2001 September - Detention of MPs and other pro-reform activists, crushing hopes of a break with the authoritarian past of Hafez al-Assad. Arrest continue, punctuated by occaisional amnesties, over the following decade.

2001 November - British PM Tony Blair visits to try shore up support for the campaign against terror. He and President Assad fail to agree on a definition of terrorism.

Tensions with US

2002 May - Senior US official includes Syria in a list of states that make-up an "axis of evil", first listed by President Bush in January. Undersecretary for State John Bolton says Damascus is acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

2003 April - US threatens sanctions if Damascus fails to take what Washington calls the "right decisions". Syria denies US allegations that it is developing chemical weapons and helping fugitive Iraqis.

2003 September - President Assad appoints Mohammed Naji al-Otari prime minister.

2003 October - Israeli air strike against Palestinian militant camp near Damascus. Syria says action is "military aggression".

2004 January - President Assad visits Turkey, the first Syrian leader to do so. The trip marks the end of decades of frosty relations, although ties sour again after the popular uprising in 2011.

2004 March - At least 25 killed in clashes between members of the Kurdish minority, police and Arabs in the north-east.

2004 May - US imposes economic sanctions on Syria over what it calls its support for terrorism and failure to stop militants entering Iraq.

2004 September - UN Security Council resolution calls for all foreign forces to leave Lebanon.

Pressure over Lebanon

2005 February-April- Tensions with the US escalate after the killing of former Lebanese PM Hariri in Beirut. Washington cites Syrian influence in Lebanon. Damascus is urged to withdraw its forces from Lebanon, which it does by April.

2005 October - Interior minister and Syria's former head of intelligence in Lebanon, Ghazi Kanaan, dies in what officials say is suicide. UN inquiry into assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri implicates senior Syrian officials.

2005 December - Exiled former vice-president Abdul Halim Khaddam alleges that Syrian leaders threatened former Lebanese PM Hariri before his assassination.

2006 February - Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus are set on fire during a demonstration against cartoons in a Danish newspaper portraying the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

2006 September - Attack on the US embassy in Damascus. Four gunmen open fire and throw grenades but fail to detonate a car bomb. Three of them are killed, one is captured.

Diplomatic overtures

2006 November - Iraq and Syria restore diplomatic relations after nearly a quarter century.

2007 March - European Union relaunches dialogue with Syria.

2007 April - US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi meets President Assad in Damascus. She is the highest-placed US politician to visit Syria in recent years. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meets Foreign Minister Walid Muallem the following month in the first contact at this level for two years.

2007 May - Leading dissident Kamal Labwani and prominent political writer Michel Kilo are sentenced to a long jail terms, only weeks after human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni is jailed.

Israeli strike

2007 September - Israel carries out an aerial strike against a site in northern Syria that it said was a nuclear facility under construction. In 2011 the UN's IAEA nuclear watchdog decides to report Syria to the UN Security Council over its alleged covert nuclear programme reactor programme at the site.

2008 March - Syria hosts Arab League summit. Many pro-Western states send lower-level delegations in protest at Syria's stance on Lebanon.

2008 April - The US accuses North Korea of having helped Syria to build a secret nuclear reactor at the site bombed by Israel in 2007.

International acceptance

2008 July - President Assad meets French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris. The visit signals the end of the diplomatic isolation by the West that followed the assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri in 2005. While in Paris, President Assad also meets the recently-elected Lebanese president, Michel Suleiman. The two men agree to work towards the establishing of full diplomatic relations between their countries.

2008 September - Damascus hosts four-way summit between Syria, France, Turkey and Qatar, in a bid to boost efforts towards Middle East peace. Explosion kills 17 on the outskirts of Damascus, the most deadly attack in Syria in several years. Government blames Islamist militants.

Diplomatic thaw continues

2008 October - Syria establishes diplomatic relations with Lebanon for first time since both countries established independence in 1940s.

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Image caption Syria has a sizeable Christian community

2009 March - Jeffrey Feltman, acting assistant US secretary of state for the Near East, visits Damascus with White House national security aide Daniel Shapiro in first high-level US diplomatic mission for nearly four years. Meets Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.

Trading launches on Syria's stock exchange in a gesture towards liberalising the state-controlled economy.

2009 May - Syrian writer and pro-democracy campaigner Michel Kilo is released from prison after serving three-year sentence.

2009 June - The UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, says traces of undeclared man-made uranium have been found at second site in Syria - a reactor in Damascus. The IAEA was investigating US claims that the site destroyed in the 2007 Israeli raid was a nuclear reactor.

2009 July - US special envoy George Mitchell visits for talks with President Assad on Middle East peace.

2009 August - Iraq and Syria recall their envoys in a deepening rift over charges of responsibility for a string of deadly bomb attacks in Baghdad. They restore ties later in 2010.

2010 February - US posts first ambassador to Syria after a five-year break.

2010 May - US renews sanctions against Syria, saying that it supports terrorist groups, seeks weapons of mass destruction and has provided Lebanon's Hezbollah with Scud missiles in violation of UN resolutions.

Nationwide uprising

2011 March - Security forces shoot dead protestors in southern city of Deraa demanding release of political prisoners, triggering violent unrest that steadily spread nationwide over the following months.

President Assad announces conciliatory measures, releasing dozens of political prisoners, dismissing government, lifting 48-year-old state of emergency. 2011 May - Army tanks enter Deraa, Banyas, Homs and suburbs of Damascus in an effort to crush anti-regime protests. US and European Union tighten sanctions. President Assad announces amnesty for political prisoners.

2011 June - The government says that 120 members of the security forces have been killed by "armed gangs" in the northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughour. Troops besiege the town and more than 10,000 people flee to Turkey. President Assad pledges to start a "national dialogue" on reform.

2011 June - The IAEA nuclear watchdog decides to report Syria to the UN Security Council over its alleged covert nuclear programme reactor programme. The structure housing the alleged reactor was destroyed in an Israeli air raid in 2007.

Opposition organises

2011 July - President Assad sacks the governor of the northern province of Hama after mass demonstration there, eventually sending in troops to restore order at the cost of scores of lives.

2011 October - New Syrian National Council says it has forged a common front of internal and exiled opposition activists.

2011 November - Arab League votes to suspend Syria, accusing it of failing to implement an Arab peace plan, and imposes sanctions.

2011 December - Twin suicide bombs outside security buildings in Damascus kill 44, the first in a series of large blasts in the the capital that continue into the following summer.

2012 February - Government steps up the bombardment of Homs and other cities.

International pressure

2012 March - UN Security Council endorses non-binding peace plan drafted by UN envoy Kofi Annan. China and Russia agree to support the plan after an earlier, tougher draft is modified.

2012 May - France, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada and Australia expel senior Syrian diplomats in protest at killing of more than a hundred civilians in Houla, near Homs.

2012 June - Turkey changes rules of engagement after Syria shoots down a Turkish plane, declaring that if Syrian troops approach Turkey's borders they will be seen as a military threat.

2012 July - Free Syria Army blows up three security chiefs in Damascus and seizes Aleppo in the north.

2012 August - Prime Minister Riad Hijab defects, US President Obama warns that use of chemical weapons would tilt the US towards intervention.

2012 October - Syria-Turkish tension rises when Syrian mortar fire on a Turkish border town kills five civilians. Turkey returns fire and intercepts a Syrian plane allegedly carrying arms from Russia.

Fire in Aleppo destroys much of the historic market as fighting and bomb attacks continue in various cities.

2012 November - National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces formed in Qatar, excludes Islamist militias. Arab League stops short of full recognition.

Israeli military fire on Syrian artillery units after several months of occasional shelling from Syrian positions across the Golan Heights, the first such return of fire since the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

2012 December - US, Britain, France, Turkey and Gulf states formally recognise opposition National Coalition as "legitimate representative" of Syrian people.

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Image caption The conflict in Syria displaced millions of people, many of whom sought refuge in camps in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon

2013 January - Syria accuses Israeli jets of attacking a military research centre near Damascus, but denies reports that lorries carrying weapons bound for Lebanon were hit. Unverified reports say Israel had targeted an Iranian commander charged with moving weapons of mass destruction to Lebanon.

International donors pledge more than $1.5bn (£950m) to help civilians affected by the conflict in Syria.

2013 March - Syrian warplanes bomb the northern city of Raqqa after rebels seize control. US and Britain pledge non-military aid to rebels.

Rise of Islamists

2013 June - Government and allied Lebanese Hezbollah forces recapture strategically-important town of Qusair between Homs and Lebanese border.

2013 July - Saudi-backed Ahmed Jarba becomes leader of opposition National Coalition, defeating Qatar-backed rival.

2013 September - UN weapons inspectors conclude that chemical weapons were used in an attack on the Ghouta area of Damascus in August that killed about 300 people, but do not explicitly allocate responsibility.

2013 October - President Assad allows international inspectors to begin destroying Syria's chemical weapons on the basis of a US-Russian agreement.

2013 December - US and Britain suspend "non-lethal" support for rebels in northern Syria after reports that Islamist rebels seized bases of Western-backed Free Syrian Army.

2014 January-February - UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva fail, largely because Syrian authorities refuse to discuss a transitional government.

2014 March - Syrian Army and Hezbollah forces recapture Yabroud, the last rebel stronghold near the Lebanese border.

2014 May - Hundreds of rebels are evacuated from their last stronghold in the central city of Homs. The withdrawal marks the end of three years of resistance in the city.

'Caliphate' in east

2014 June - UN announces removal of Syria's chemical weapons material complete.

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants declare "caliphate" in territory from Aleppo to eastern Iraqi province of Diyala.

2014 August - Tabqa airbase, near the northern city of Raqqa, falls to Islamic State militants, who now control all of Raqqa province.

2014 September - US and five Arab countries launch air strikes against Islamic State around Aleppo and Raqqa.

2015 January - Kurdish forces push Islamic State out of Kobane on Turkish border after four months of fighting.

2015 March -Opposition offensives push back government forces. New Jaish al-Fatah (Army of Conquest) Islamist rebel alliance, backed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, captures provincial capital of Idlib.

2015 May - Islamic State fighters seize the ancient city of Palmyra in central Syria and proceed to destroy many monuments at pre-Islamic World Heritage site.

Jaish al-Fatah takes control of Idlib Province, putting pressure on government's coastal stronghold of Latakia.

2015 June - Kurds take Ain Issa and border town of Tal Abyad, Islamic State attacks Kobane and seizes part of Hassakeh, the main city in north-eastern Syria.

Russian intervention

2015 September - Russia carries out its first air strikes in Syria, saying they target the Islamic State group, but the West and Syrian opposition say it overwhelmingly targets anti-Assad rebels.

2015 December - Britain joins US-led bombing raids against Islamic State in wake of Paris suicide bombing attacks.

Syrian Army allows rebels to evacuate remaining area of Homs, returning Syria's third-largest city to government control after four years.

2016 February - A US-Russian-brokered partial ceasefire is agreed but fails to stick, as do repeated subsequent attempts.

2016 March - Syrian government forces retake Palmyra from Islamic State, with Russian air assistance.

2016 August - Turkish troops cross into Syria to help rebel groups push back so-called Islamic State militants and Kurdish-led rebels from a section of the two countries' border.

2016 December - Government troops, backed by Russian air power and Iranian-sponsored militas, recaptures Aleppo, the country's largest city, depriving the rebels of their last major urban stronghold.