Syrian civil war

The Syrian civil war (Arabic: الْحَرْبُ الْأَهْلِيَّةُ السُّورِيَّةُ, romanized: al-ḥarb al-ʾahlīyah as-sūrīyah) is an ongoing multi-sided civil war, fought in Syria, between the Syrian Arab Republic led by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad (along with domestic and foreign allies) and various domestic and foreign forces that oppose both the Syrian government and each other (in varying combinations).[121]

Syrian civil war
Part of the Arab Spring, Arab Winter, the spillover of the Iraqi conflict, International military intervention against the Islamic State, War on terror, Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict, and the Iran–Israel proxy conflict

Top: A ruined neighborhood in Raqqa in 2017.
Bottom: Military situation in September 2021:
     Syrian Arab Republic (SAA)      Syrian Arab Republic & Rojava (SAA & SDF)      Rojava (SDF)      Syrian Interim Government (SNA) & Turkish occupation      Syrian Salvation Government (HTS[a])      Revolutionary Commando Army & United States' occupation      Opposition groups in reconciliation      Islamic State
(full list of combatants, detailed map)
Date15 March 2011 (2011-03-15) – present
(10 years, 6 months, 1 week and 2 days)
Syria (with spillovers in neighboring countries)
Status Ongoing
As of 31 March 2020: the Syrian Armed Forces held 63.57% of Syrian territories; SDF 25.57%; rebel groups (incl. HTS) & Turkey 9.72%; Islamic State 1.14%[1]
Main belligerents

 Russia (2015–present)
 Iraq (2017–2019)[2][h]




Salvation Government (Tahrir al-Sham)[e][f]

 Islamic State[e]

Commanders and leaders



Units involved
See order See order See order See order
Syrian Armed Forces: 142,000 (2019)[81]
General Security Directorate: 8,000[82]
National Defense Force: 80,000[83]
Liwa Fatemiyoun: 10,000 – 20,000(2018)[84]
Liwa Abu al-Fadhal al-Abbas: 10,000+(2013)[85]
Ba'ath Brigades: 7,000
Hezbollah: 6,000–8,000[86]
Liwa Al-Quds: 4,000–8,000
Russia: 4,000 troops[87] & 1,000 contractors[88]
Iran: 3,000–5,000[86][89]
Other allied groups: 20,000+

Free Syrian Army: 20,000–32,000[90] (2013)
Islamic Front: 40,000–70,000[91][92] (2014)
Other groups: 12,500[93] (2015)
Turkish Armed Forces: 4,000–8,000[94][95]

Ahrar al-Sham: 18,000–20,000+[96][97] (March 2017)

Tahrir al-Sham: 20,000–30,000 (per U.S., late 2018)[98]
~3,000 (per Russia, mid 2019)[99][100]

SDF: 60,000–75,000 (2017 est.)[101]

  • YPG & YPJ: 20,000–30,000 (2017 est.)[102]
  • Syriac Military Council (MFS): 1,000 (2017 est.)[103]
  • Al-Sanadid Forces: 2,000–4,000 (2017 est.)[103]
  • SDF Military Councils: 10,000+[104][105][106]
United States Armed Forces:
Casualties and losses
Syrian Arab Republic:
91,031–103,434 soldiers & 66,995 militiamen killed[108][109]
4,100 soldiers/militiamen & 1,800 supporters captured[108]
1,707–2,000 killed[108][110]
137–160 soldiers killed & 184–284 PMCs killed[111]
Other non-Syrian fighters:
8,329 killed[108] (2,300–3,500+ IRGC-led)[112][113]
168,062–180,758 killed

Syrian opposition/HTS:
111,518–152,238 killed[g][108][109]

246–303 killed (2016–20 incursions)[114]
Islamic State:
40,628 killed[108]

13,862 killed[108]
3,200+ killed[115]

13 killed[116] ( 10, 1, 1, 1)

159,774 civilian deaths documented by opposition[108]
100 other foreign soldiers killed ( 60, 17 (pre-'16), 16, 7)

Total killed: 494,438–606,000 (per SOHR)[108]

Estimated 6.7 million internally displaced & 6.6 million refugees (March 2021)[117]

a Formerly al-Nusra Front.
b Since early 2013, the FSA has been decentralized. Its name is arbitrarily used by various rebels.
c Turkey provided arms support to rebels (2011–unknown, Aug. 2016 – present) & fought alongside the TFSA in the Aleppo governorate vs. SDF, IS and Syrian gov.
d Sep.–Nov. 2016: U.S. fought with the TFSA in Aleppo governorate solely vs. IS.[118][119] In 2017–18, the U.S. purposely attacked the Syrian gov. 10 times, & in Sep. 2016 it accidentally hit a Syrian base, killing ≥100 SAA soldiers. Syria maintains this as intentional.[120]
e Predecessors of HTS (al-Nusra Front) & IS (ISI) were allied al-Qaeda branches until April 2013. Al-Nusra Front rejected an ISI-proposed merger into ISIL & al-Qaeda cut all affiliation with ISIL in February 2014.
f Predecessors of Ahrar al-Sham (Syrian Liberation Front) & HTS (al-Nusra Front), were allied under the Army of Conquest (Mar. 2015 – Jan. 2017).
g Number incl. all anti-government forces, except ISIL and SDF, which are listed in their separate columns.
h Iraq's involvement was coordinated with the Syrian gov. & limited to airstrikes vs. ISIL.[2]

The unrest in Syria (which began on 15 March 2011 as part of the wider 2011 Arab Spring protests) grew out of discontent with the Syrian government and escalated to an armed conflict after protests calling for Assad's removal were violently suppressed.[122][123][124]

The war is currently being fought by several factions, including the Syrian Armed Forces and its domestic and international allies, a loose alliance of mostly Sunni opposition rebel groups (such as the Free Syrian Army), Salafi jihadist groups (including al-Nusra Front and Tahrir al-Sham), the mixed Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

A number of foreign countries, such as Iran, Russia, Turkey, and the United States, have either directly involved themselves in the conflict or provided support to one or another faction. Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah support the Syrian Arab Republic and the Syrian Armed Forces militarily, with Russia conducting airstrikes and other military operations since September 2015. The U.S.-led international coalition, established in 2014 with the declared purpose of countering ISIL, has conducted airstrikes primarily against ISIL as well as some against government and pro-government targets. They have also deployed special forces and artillery units to engage ISIL on the ground. Since 2015, the U.S. has supported the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria and its armed wing, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), materially, financially, and logistically. At different times, the Turkish state has fought the SDF, ISIL, and the Syrian government since 2016, but has also actively supported the Syrian opposition and occupied large swaths of northwestern Syria while engaging in significant ground combat. Between 2011 and 2017, fighting from the Syrian civil war spilled over into Lebanon as opponents and supporters of the Syrian government traveled to Lebanon to fight and attack each other on Lebanese soil, with ISIL and Al-Nusra also engaging the Lebanese Army. Furthermore, while officially neutral, Israel has exchanged border fire and carried out repeated strikes against Hezbollah and Iranian forces, whose presence in southwestern Syria it views as a threat.[125][126]

International organizations have accused virtually all sides involved, including the Ba'athist Syrian government, ISIL, opposition rebel groups, Russia,[127] Turkey,[128] and the U.S.-led coalition[129] of severe human rights violations and massacres.[130] The conflict has caused a major refugee crisis. Over the course of the war, a number of peace initiatives have been launched, including the March 2017 Geneva peace talks on Syria led by the United Nations, but fighting has continued.[131]