President Bashar al-Assad’s government rules about 70% of the country, having fought back rebel forces from the outskirts of the capital, Damascus, and regained control over Syria’s other big cities such as Aleppo and Homs.
Syria war began with a brutal crackdown on protests in the Arab Spring of 2011, but escalated into a military conflict that autumn, when sections of Assad’s forces began to defect and take up arms against the government.
The war changed abruptly when the Isis caliphate was declared in Syria in 2013. As Isis pushed into Kurdish areas, US forces backed the predominantly Kurdish SDF, which fought and defeated Isis, taking its capital Raqqa in 2017.
The UN estimates that 13.5 million Syrians have been forcibly displaced since 2011, more than half of the country’s pre-war population of 22 million: 6.7 million have beeen displaced within Syria; and 6.8 million have sought refuge abroad. Turkey has received the most refugees — 3.6 million by early this year — and Lebanon 865,000. Germany has taken 675,000 Syrians, Sweden 190,000 — and the UK 23,000