Syria is currently engaged in a series of armed conflicts. First, the Syrian government is engaged in several non-international armed conflicts against a wide array of rebel groups. Second, there is arguably an international armed conflict between Syria and members of the US-led international coalition and Turkey. There is arguably a military occupation of parts of northern Syria by Turkey. Finally, part of Syrian territory, the Golan Heights, is occupied by Israel.
Syria is currently a party to a series of armed conflicts.
- Supported by Hezbollah and Russia, Syria is engaged in a series of non-international armed conflicts on its territory against a wide array of rebel groups, including the Islamic State group, the Free Syrian Army, and Kurdish militia.Iran also backs the Syrian government and sent military advisors to train and assistant government forces, but such capacity building activities do not render Iran a party to the conflict.
- Since September 2014, Syria is also involved in an international armed conflict with the international coalition led by the United States because they have been targeting the Islamic State group on Syrian territory without the latter's consent. Identical Letters Dated 17 September 2015 From the Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations Addressed to the Secretary General and the President of the Security Council, UN doc S/2015/719, 21 September 2015. Currently, the coalition led by the United States includes Australia, Belgium, Germany, France, Jordan, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. Since July 2015, Turkey has also been involved in an international armed conflict with Syria after it launching its first airstrikes against Islamic State group targets in Syria. Turkey also deployed ground troops.
- Part of Syria's territory is currently occupied by Turkey.
- After the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons, the United States conducted missile strikes against a Syrian Air Force airfield on 7 April 2017, leading to a short-lived international armed conflict between the United States and Syria. U. S. Department of Defense, 'Statement from Pentagon Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis on U.S. Strike in Syria', Press Release, 6 April 2017; S. Almukhtar, K. K. R. Lai, S. Peçanha and K. Yourish, 'Mapping the Targets of the American Military Attack on Syria', The New York Times, 7 April 2013. Moreover, in May and June 2017, the U.S. repeatedly targeted Syrian government positions inside Syria. T. Gibbson-Neff, 'U.S. Conducts New Strikes on pro-Syrian Government Forces Threatening U.S. Special Operations Base', The Washington Post, 6 June 2017; M. Ryan, 'U.S. Launches Rare Intentional Strike on Pro-Government Forces in Syria', The Washington Post, 19 May 2017; T. Gibbson-Neff and K. Fahim,'U.S. Aircraft Shoots Down a Syrian Government Jet Over Northern Syria, Pentagon Says', The Washington Post, 18 June 2017.
Part of Syrian territory, the Golan Heights remain occupied by Israel. The non-international armed conflicts in Syria have repeatedly spilled over into the Golan Heights, leading to violations of the 1974 Disengagement of Armed Forces Agreement by the Syrian and Israeli armed forces. See for example Report of the Secretary General on the United Nations Disengagement Force for the Period from 2 March to 16 May 2017, UN doc S/2017/486, 8 June 2017; Report of the Secretary General on the United Nations Disengagement Force for the Period from 1 March to 20 May 2016, UN doc S/2016/520, 8 June 2016. In August 2014, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, abducted 45 peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights and released them unharmed on September 11. See Report of the Secretary General on the United Nations Disengagement Force for the Period from 4 September to 19 November 2014, UN doc S/2014/859, 28 November 2014, §4. In response to cross-border attacks from non-state armed groups, but also to prevent the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah, Israel has repeatedly carried out missile and airstrikes inside Syrian territory, leading to a series of distinct short-lived international armed conflicts. See A. Bellal (ed), The War Report: Armed Conflict in 2014, Oxford University Press 2014, p 57 ff. Examples include the downing of a Syrian warplane that had entered the airspace of the Golan Heights in September 2014, see ‘Israel Shoots Down Syrian Warplane’, CBS/Associated Press, 23 September 2014; the bombing of Syrian army positions in March 2014, December 2014, and September 2015, see L. Smith-Spark and M. Schwartz, ‘Israel Retaliates in Syria After Roadside Bomb Attack Against Israeli Troops’, CNN, 19 March 2014; P. Beaumont, ‘Israeli Jets Bomb Syria, Says Damascus’, The Guardian, 7 December 2014; ‘Israel Strikes Syria After Rockets Land in Golan’, Al Jazeera, 28 September 2015; and a series of bombings believed to aim to prevent the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah, for example in March 2013 and in November 2016, see ‘Israel Bombs Hezbollah-bound Missiles in Syria: Official’, Reuters, 4 May 2013; ‘Israeli Airstrikes Hit Damascus Outskirts, Syrian Reports Says’, The Guardian/Associated Press, 30 November 2016. For example, in 2017, Israel reportedly carried out airstrikes in Syria in March, April, September and November. 'Israel Carries Out Air Strikes Inside Syria', Al Jazeera, 18 March 2017; J. Ensor, 'Damascus Airport Rocked by Huge Explosion After Suspected Israeli Air Strike on Hizbollah', The Telegraph, 27 April 2017; B. McKernan, 'Israeli Air Force Jets Kill Two in Rare Targeting of Syrian Chemical Facility', The Independent, 7 September 2017; P. Beaumont, 'Israeli Jets Bombed Site Close to Damascus Airport, Reports Say', The Guardian, 22 September 2017; 'Syria War: Israeli Jets "Strike Factory Near Homs"', BBC, 2 November 2017. In February 2018, Israel launched its largest aerial On 11 February 2018, Israel launched its largest scale aerial attacks inside Syria so far. After claiming to have intercepted an Iranian drone crossing the Syrian-Israeli border, Israeli fighter planes attacked a Syrian military base. During the attack, an Israeli fighter plane was shut down by Syrian air defence. In response, Israel launched attacks targeting Syrian air defences. A. Taylor, 'Israel Has Taken Its Biggest Step Into the Syrian War Yet. What Does that Mean?', The Washington Post, 10 February 2018; L. Sly and L. Morris, 'Syria's War Mutates Into a Regional Conflict, Risking a Wider Conflagration', The Washington Post, 12 February 2012; A. Carey, L. Smith-Spart and N. Chavez, 'Israeli PM: Airstrikes Dealt "Severe Blows" to Iran, Syria', CNN, 11 February 2018: 'Damascus Warns Israel of "More Surprises" in Syria', Reuters, 13 February 2018; R. Bergman, 'The Middle East's Coming War', The New York Times, 12 February 2018. This use of force by Israel against Syria amounts to a short-lived international armed conflict.
The threshold for an international armed conflict is very low. Whenever there is a resort to hostile armed force between two states, there is an international armed conflict. For further information, see 'international armed conflict - a low threshold' in our classification section.