Map: Syria in c. AD 2005

Syria 1960AD – 2005AD


In 1961 a military coup re-established Syria as an independent state. In 1970 colonel Hafiz al-Assad seized power. He and (from 2000) his son Bashir have provided internal stability for the country. They have promoted economic growth, land reform and education, and have strengthened the army. They have enjoyed widespread support, but dissent has been crushed.

Continuing hostility between Israel and its Arab neighbours led to the 6-Day War in 1967, and then to the 1973 war. In these, Israel first gained, and then held on to, much new territory: the Arab part of Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip (occupied 1967-2005), and the Sinai peninsula (1967-1978). Peace accords with Egypt (1978) and Jordan (1994) have not ended the endless tensions, provocations and violence between Arabs and Israelis, including two major periods of Palestinian unrest (1987-93 and 2000-c.2005).  

After the 1967 war a surge of Palestinian refugees flooded into Jordan, which threatened to destabilize the country and soon led to civil war, ending in their expulsion in 1970. Most Palestinians fled to Lebanon, and here too their sheer numbers destabiliazed their host country. The Lebanese civil war followed (1975-6). This ruined the country, and ended with Syrian troops occupying much of it and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in charge of the south. The threat this posed to Israel led to its invasion of Lebanon in 1982, to crush the PLO bases there. Peace and order were gradually restored in Lebanon, but the rise of Hezbollah, a Shi’ite group dedicated to the elimination of Israel, is a new source of danger to this small country.

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