Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday visited Syrian soldiers who appear close to defeating the last major opposition foothold near Damascus and met some of the many thousands of people uprooted during the government offensive.
The Syrian conflict is the deadliest conflict of the 21st century to date. In 2011, protests erupted in Syria after 15 boys were detained and tortured for having written graffiti in support of the Arab Spring. One of the boys, was killed after having been brutally tortured. The Syrian government, led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded to the protests by killing hundreds of demonstrators and imprisoning many more. In July 2011, defectors from the military announced the formation of the Free Syrian Army, a rebel group aiming to overthrow the government, and civil war began. Foreign backing and open intervention have since played a major role. An international coalition led by the US has bombed Islamic State targets and Russia in 2015 launched a bombing campaign against what it referred to as "terrorist groups" in Syria, before deploying military advisers to shore up Assad's defences.