The Syrian conflict is one of the bloodiest civil wars in contemporary history. It is honestly getting hard to even imagine current events without the Syria being on the back burner. Syria's gone through the Arab Spring, civil war and unrest, ISIS, and oh so many civilian casualties in the past few years.
The past few days and weeks, however, have unfortunately been some of the deadliest for civilians in Syria. Thanks to government and rebel attacks throughout conflict zones, especially near Aleppo, close to two hundred civilians have been marked dead, with some news sources questioning the severity of the true fatality rates.
The Modern Syrian Timeline
In March of 2011, Deraan protesters demanded the release of political prisoners, something that BBC among other sources have decidedly called the beginning of Syrian national unrest. President Bashar al-Assad gives in, releasing prisoners. Assad goes one step further and dismisses much of the government.
In May of 2011, the army enters the main urban areas within Syria. This is due to the increase in anti-government protests. The army enters with force to crush these protests. The Western world responds with harsher political and economic sanctions, forcing Assad to allow for the amnesty of political prisoners.
By June of 2011, Bashar al-Assad promises to start a national reformatory dialogue. This happens concurrently with the IAEA reporting to the UN about Syria's alleged nuclear reactor program and with troops attacking Jisr al-Shughour, forcing a refugee influx in Turkey.
In July there were mass demonstrations in Hama, something that caused Assad to put the province under military rule, at the expense of civilian lives. By November, the Arab League suspends membership of Syria due to its lack of peace, something that forces them to place sanctions on the nation.
From November to February, the government continues attacks on its provinces and major cities. The international world during this time proved silently concerned for the seeming lack of care for civilian lives and deaths.
Internationally, the UN creates a non-binding peace plan in March of 2012. Syrian diplomats are kicked out of major countries like the UK, Australia, and Germany due to the level of civilian casualties in May of 2012. This was the time of the Houla massacre where at least 100, mostly women and children, were killed in village attacks. The survivors blamed the government while the government blamed terrorists. One thing that is for sure is that it was one of the worst massacres in Syria's modern conflict.
In June of 2012, the rebels of the Free Syrian Army stated they will not agree to a cease-fire. They said they will only agree to a peace-enforcing mission by the UN, leaning towards the loss of the current government structure.
The attacks of Syria were only made worse when in 2013, chemical warfare began.
On March 19 2013 in Khan al-Assal was the first widely-known attack via chemical weapons, followed by dozens of casualties due to sarin nerve gas. Ghouta near Damascus was the next highly deadly nerve gas attack, something the US blamed on the Syrian government. During this time, the US has begun to consider using its military force to help the situation. The UN confirms the sarin gas in September of 2013, causing the US to send ships in case a strike proves necessary.
By October of 2013, international inspectors start dismantling Syria's chemical weapons thanks to a highly contentious deal between Russia and the US, something that possibly stopped full on war.
Early 2014 marked peace talks in Geneva. Unfortunately by March of 2014, ethnic persecution starts to occur as fostered by the Syrian Army and Al Qaeda forces against ethnic Armenians.
By summer of 2014, the Islamic State gains territory in Syria. It is important to note that Al Qaeda refuses to link itself with the Islamic State, disavowing all relations with the newer group. By August, there are airstrike.s by the Syrian government against IS. In September, President Obama states the US involvement will be increased in a systemic airstrike campaign.
Influxes of foreigners who believe in radical causes like IS start to enter Syria by Spring of 2015 to join the groups, making Syria a global training center for IS and extremism.
During this time, the amount of refugees rushing out of the war torn environment that is Syria has escalated to the point of a refugee crisis.
Refugees found themselves, since the earliest parts of the conflict, seeking mass asylum in Europe, numbers that make this refugee crisis the worst since World War Two. (The unfortunate side effect in Europe is the rise of anti-immigration political groups.)
September of 2015 marked the involvement of Russia in airstrikes against IS. The conflict and airstrikes continue for the remainder of 2015. Deaths are still numerous.
In early 2016, US and Russia helped to broker a cessation of hostilities. However, this deal was inapplicable to IS and other terrorist organizations and rebel groups in the area. Syrian peace talks are moved to March to allow for the ceasefire. Russia starts to partially withdraw from Syria in March as well, but clearly remains a presence.
The Current Heartache
The sanctioned cease fire, thanks to its inapplicable nature against rebel groups and terrorism, has done little in contested areas to alleviate the death toll.
As seen since the beginning of August 2016, hundreds of Syrians have been slaughtered. In fact, from August 12 to August 15, the number of deaths across Syria is greater than 175. (This death rate is hard for me to comprehend, singularly devastating, and so angry-making.)
As of last week, the Syrian rebels managed to break the government siege in Aleppo. This is a crucial move for the rebels because for four years Aleppo has essentially been the center of battles and humanitarian crises. Aleppo, for the last few days, has also been the site of many a government and Russian airstrike. There have been allegations of barrel bombs being dropped, suicide bombers, and napalm-like substances (all of which are harsh forms of warfare). As of right now, the accountability from both sides is lacking.
Aleppo is a key place for both the government and rebels due to its proximity to Turkey and its supply lines. Moreover, the sheer civilian population in the area makes it a place of power for the groups. Unfortunately, it also makes it a place where civilians tend to flee from.
There is however hope that terrorist strongholds in the region will fall. As of August 14, Islamic State has lost Manbij to a US-influenced force. Manbij is now in the hands of the Kurdish led SDF. While the fighting in this region faced a heavy death toll, it does mean IS's second largest stronghold is no more. Unfortunately, IS does still control a large portion of Syria, including the second-largest city Mosul. However, IS has in recent months also been driven out of Falluja, Palmyra, Rammadi, Shaddadeh, among others.