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Yearbook 2015

Syria. According to COUNTRYAAH, the conflict that some began to call a third world war continued to rage in Syria. Before the end of the year, four of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the United States, the Russian Federation, France and the United Kingdom), as well as the regional powers of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, were militarily involved in the war. With the Russian Federation and Iran as important exceptions, the outside world was generally hostile to the regime. Despite this, a US-led alliance of Western and Arab states engaged primarily against one of the regime's many opponents: the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, which the UN Security Council in November identified as a threat to world peace. The conflict was a major contributor to the great refugee crisis in the world - about 5 million people had left the country in just under five years. Almost half of the 250,000 dead were estimated to be civilians.

2015 Syria

At the beginning of the year, the Kurdish militia YPG (People's Defense Units) drove back IS from the city of Kobane on the border with Turkey, an area that has been the focus of the world's attention. In June, YPG also took Tal Abyad further east at the border, with the support of the US-led alliance.

In March, other Islamist groups entered Idlib, the capital of the province of the same name in the northwest. It was the second provincial capital that the government lost control of, after ar-Raqqa which fell in 2013. The regime lost its last stronghold in the province, an air base, in September.

IS in May took Palmyra in the middle of the country and destroyed there temples and other remains in the ancient city that the UN agency UNESCO classified as a World Heritage Site. The group also beheaded an 83-year-old museum manager who was responsible for the archaeological excavations in the city.

In July, Turkey also began to bomb IS's positions in Syria, although several of the Turkish attacks were aimed at Kurds, primarily Iraq but also in Syria. As a result, NATO member Turkey fired US allies in Syria.

Amnesty International accused the government of war crimes because of repeated air strikes against Duma, a rebel-controlled suburb of Damascus. The Human Rights Organization raised alarms that many civilians were cut off from supplies. In August, around 100 people died and at least 200 were injured when a well-visited marketplace in Duma was hit by at least four robots in one of the worst massacres so far during the war.

The Russian Federation and Iran increased their military involvement, and in September the Russian Federation also began bombing inside Syria, from aircraft and ships. According to Moscow, the attacks were aimed at IS, but others claimed that it was rather other opponents of the al-Assad regime being attacked.

Attempts to broker peace occurred. UN envoy Staffan de Mistura made several proposals and during the summer he held individual consultations with conflicting parties. During the autumn, representatives of 17 countries that participated in the conflict and the UN, the EU and the Arab League gathered for talks in Vienna. This resulted in a plan for a transitional government to be established within six months and elections held within 18 months. In December, for the first time, a large number of Syrian resistance groups, both armed and political, gathered to try to find a way to resolve the conflict. The talks took place in Saudi Arabia. The UN Security Council then adopted a resolution on a ceasefire and peace talks that were intended to begin after the New Year but would not include IS.

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