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.

1920 March - National Congress elected the previous year proclaims Emir Feisal King of Syria from the Taurus mountains of Turkey to the Sinai desert in Egypt.

French control

1920 June - San Remo conference puts Syria-Lebanon under a French mandate and Palestine under British control. King Feisal flees abroad ahead of French occupation forces the following month.

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Image caption,
Aleppo, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities, was badly damaged during the civil war after 2011

1920-21 - 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. Lebanon is separated off entirely.


1925-6 - Nationalist agitation against French rule develops into 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 work towards Syrian independence and dissolves the autonomous regions, but maintains military and economic dominance and keeps Lebanon as a separate state.

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

1943 - Veteran nationalist Shukri al-Kuwatli is elected first president of Syria, leads the country to full independence three years later.

Baath Party founded

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

1949-1954 - Civilian government disrupted by repeated coups.

1955 - Shukri al-Kuwatli returns to power, seeks closer ties with Egypt.

1958 February - Syria and Egypt form the United Arab Republic. 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 prompts a group of Syrian army officers to seize power in Damascus and dissolve the union.

Rise of Assad

1963 March - Baathist army officers seize power.

1966 February - Salah Jadid leads an internal coup against the civilian Baath leadership. 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.

1973 - Rioting breaks out after President Assad drops the constitutional requirement that the president must be a Muslim. 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 in 1967.

1975 February - President 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, keeping its Maronite Christian allies in a position of strength.

Muslim Brotherhood rises

1980 - After the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Muslim groups instigate uprisings and riots in Aleppo, Homs and Hama.

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 formally annexes the Golan Heights.

Uprising in Hama

1982 February - Muslim Brotherhood uprising in the city of Hama suppressed by army, tens of thousands of civilians killed.

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.

1984 - President's brother Rifaat promoted to vice-president.

Return to Lebanon

1987 February - President 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 - President Assad's son Basil, who was likely to succeed his father, is killed in a car accident.

1998 - President Assad's brother Rifaat is dismissed as vice-president.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Damascus urban sprawl

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

Assad succession

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

2000 November - The new president 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 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 occasional amnesties, over the following decade.

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.

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

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.

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 September - Israel carries out an aerial strike against a nuclear facility under construction in northern Syria.

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.

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

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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.

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.

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.

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

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 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 parts of the city of 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 - 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.

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 Israel of bombing military base near Damascus, where Hezbollah was suspected of assembling a convoy of anti-aircraft missiles bound for Lebanon.

Rise of Islamists

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 allocate responsibility. Government allows UN to destroy chemical weapons stocks, process complete by June 2014.

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

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 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 (Army of Conquest) Islamist rebel alliance takes control of Idlib Province, putting pressure on government's coastal stronghold of Latakia.

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

2016 March - Syrian government forces retake Palmyra from Islamic State with Russian air assistance, only to be driven out again in December.

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 militias, recapture Aleppo, the country's largest city, depriving the rebels of their last major urban stronghold.

2017 January - Russia, Iran and Turkey agree to enforce a ceasefire between the government and non-Islamist rebels, after talks between the two sides in Kazakhstan.

US intervenes

2017 April - US President Donald Trump orders a missile attack on an airbase from which Syrian government planes allegedly staged a chemical weapons attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun.

2017 May - US decides to arm the YPG Kurdish Popular Protection Units. These fight alongside the main opposition Syrian Democratic Forces, which captures the important Tabqa dam from Islamic State.

2017 June - US shoots down Syrian fighter jet near Raqqa after it allegedly dropped bombs near US-backed rebel Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

2017 July - The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and the Syrian army launch a military operation to dislodge jihadist groups from the Arsal area, near the Lebanese-Syrian border.

Islamic State retreats

2017 October-November - The Islamic State group is driven from Raqqa, its de-facto capital in Syria, and Deir al-Zour.

2018 January - Turkey launches an assault on northern Syria to oust Kurdish rebels controlling the area around Afrin.

2018 April - Claims of a new chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta's main town of Douma prompt the US, Britain and France to carry out a wave of punitive strikes on Syrian targets.

2018 July - Syrian army recaptures almost all of the south of the country, up to the borders with Jordan and Israeli-held territory.

2018 September-December - Kurdish-led SDF forces launch offensive that reduces Islamic State territory to a tiny enclave on the Iraqi border.

2019 October - US withdraws troops from northern Syria, prompting Turkey to attack US Kurdish allies in the area.

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi dies in US raid on his hideout in Idlib Province.

2020 March - Turkey sends thousands of troops across the border to stop a Syrian offensive to retake Idlib, the last province still in opposition hands.

2020 June - Protests in southern Syria at growing economic hardship prompt President Assad to dismiss Prime Minister Imad Khamis.