Syria | Syria Sinks into Civil War
- Syria Main Page
- Regional Conflicts Continue Through the End of the Century
- Syria is Repeatedly Accused of Supporting Terrorist Groups
- Syria and Israel Begin Negotiating, but Terrorism and Conflict Continue
- Government Forces Crack Down on Protesters
- Diplomatic Effort to End Violence Stymied by Security Council Vetoes
- Syria Sinks into Civil War
- Opposition Forms New Governing Body
- Several Countries Accuse Assad of Using Chemical Weapons
- Gains by Government and Splintering of Opposition Signal Staying Power of Assad
- Assad Accused of Launching a Chemical Attack
- Splintering of Opposition, Rise of ISIS Cause Concern
- UN-Led Negotiations Begin in Geneva; Rebels Suffer Setbacks
- Assad Re-elected in a Disputed Election
- Obama Authorizes Strikes on ISIS
- Peace Talks Delayed Again as Civil War Rages On; Another Attempt at Peace
Syria Sinks into Civil War
The situation in Syria continued to deteriorate in the summer of 2012, with ongoing attacks against civilians—about 80 people were massacred in early June near Hama—and increased fighting between government troops and the opposition. In June, UN monitors abandoned their fact-finding mission after being attacked, and a UN official declared that Syria is in a state of civil war. In late June, Syria confirmed that its military forces shot down a Turkish military jet. The incident increased tension between the two countries. Turkey, a former ally of Syria, has thrown its support behind the Syrian rebels, and dozens of Syrian soldiers defected to Turkey.
Assad's regime suffered a withering blow on July 18, when a bomb went off at a meeting of senior ministers and security officials at the country's national security headquarters in Damascus, killing the defense minister and Assad's brother-in-law, a powerful member of the government. Several reports said the attack was an inside job, suggesting weaknesses in Assad's grip on power. Later in July, rebels and government troops battled for control of Damascus and Aleppo, Syria's largest city. Fighting was particularly brutal in Aleppo, as the government troops surrounded the city with tanks and fired on rebels from fighter jets and helicopters. As many as 200,000 people fled the embattled city. The government showed signs of strain as it attempted to fight the rebels in two major cities. While the government troops were criticized for their brutal tactics, the opposition also came under fire for reportedly torturing prisoners.
Muslim jihadists and members of Al Qaeda began to join the fight in the summer, backing the rebels with weapons and financing. The development prompted concern that the opposition would become dominated by extremists, pitting Sunnis against Shiites and the ruling Alawite minority.
Kofi Annan resigned as UN special envoy to Syria in August, citing the Syrian government's refusal to implement his peace plan, intensifying violence by rebels, and discord within the Security Council. He said "without serious, purposeful and united international pressure, including from the powers of the region, it is impossible for me, or anyone, to compel the Syrian government in the first place, and also the opposition, to take the steps necessary to begin a political process." He also said it is imperative that President Assad step down.
On August 6, Prime Minister Riyad Farid Hijab and at least two other ministers defected to Jordan and announced that they would support the opposition. They were the highest-level defections to date and were signs that Assad's hold on power was dwindling. Assad held fast, however, and stepped up attacks on the rebels and citizens. In one week in early August, residents of Daraya, a suburb of Damascus that is home to a large rebel population, said the military closed off the city, pounded it with gunfire and killed more than 600 residents.
By the end of the summer, the violence in Syria had claimed about 30,000 people, mostly civilians, about 250,000 people had fled the country, and some 1.2 million were internally displaced. Neither the rebels or the Assad regime were clearly winning the war. The rebels controlled wide swaths of the countryside, while the government maintained its grip on the country's biggest cities. President Barack Obama has resisted calls for U.S. intervention, saying he will not take military action unless Assad unleashes biological or chemical weapons.
In October 2012, the war in Syria was beginning to threaten the stability of other countries in the region. Militants from Lebanon-based Hezbollah were reportedly starting to help Assad fight the rebels, and relations between Syria and Turkey, former allies, deteriorated in October after a cross-border mortar attack from Syria killed five Turkish civilians. Turkey launched retaliatory attacks on targets in Syria. The Turkish Parliament then passed a motion that authorized military action as long as Syria continued to shell Turkey. If the fighting persists, NATO may intervene to protect Turkey, a member nation. The Turkish government, however said it did not want to go to war with Syria, but it would protect its borders as necessary militarily.
In addition, weapons sent to Syrian rebels from Saudi Arabia and Qatar had fallen into the hands of radical Islamic militants rather than the secular opposition—the intended recipients. The opposition began to lose support within Syria and in the international community as its attacks grew increasingly brutal and gratuitous and the emergence of the jihadists resulted lack of leadership and infighting among the rebels.