Syria, officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest.
The name Syria formerly comprised the entire region of the Levant, while the modern state encompasses the site of several ancient kingdoms and empires, including the Eblan civilization of the third millennium BC. In the Islamic era, its capital city, Damascus, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, was the seat of the Umayyad Caliphate and a provincial capital of the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt.
The population of Syria is 74% Sunni Muslim, with a 13% Shia and Alawite Muslim population, 10% Christian and 3% Druze. Since the 1960s, Alawite military officers have tended to dominate the country's politics. Some 90% of the population is Muslim, which includes Arabs, Kurds, Circassians, and others, while some 10% are Christians, which includes Arabs, Assyrians/Syriacs, and Armenians. Ethnic minorities include Kurdish, Assyrian/Syriac, Armenian, Turkmen, and Circassian populations.
The modern Syrian state was established as a French mandate and attained independence in April 1946, as a parliamentary republic. The post-independence period was tumultuous, and a large number of military coups and coup attempts shook the country in the period 1949-1970. Syria was under Emergency Law from 1962–2011, effectively suspending most constitutional protections for citizens, and its system of government is considered non-democratic. Bashar al-Assad is the current president, and is preceded by his father Hafez al-Assad, who was in office since 1971. Syria is currently facing mass protests as part of the Arab Spring.
Xinhaunet.comEnglishNews: Army restores security in Syria's northern town: report
DAMASCUS, June 14 (Xinhua) -- A military source said Tuesday that security has returned to the violence-hit town of Jisr al- Shughour in north Syria and the residents are gradually returning to their homes, the official news agency SANA reported.
The army is still hunting down remnants of the armed groups in the mountains and forests surrounding Jisr al-Shughour, said the source.
SANA said Sunday that Jisr al-Shughour was under full control of the Syrian army, adding that one soldier was killed and four others wounded during confrontations with gunmen in the city.
The Syrian TV on Monday showed photos of a mass grave, which was uncovered by the army, containing the remains of 12 policemen and security agents allegedly killed by "armed terrorist groups" in the same area.
The photos showed mutilated bodies, most of them decapitated by machetes and with marks of wounds from gunshots.
The TV also broadcasted confessions by a member of the armed groups Anwar Al-Doush, who gave full details about the events of what the TV described as a "criminal massacre" committed against the police forces.
The private Al-Watan newspaper said earlier the army reseized Jisr al-Shughour after a "very delicate" operation and reported no casualties among civilians. It said the army arrested a big number of gunmen while others fled towards the Turkish borders to join their families there.
Residents welcomed the deployment of the army in the area and showered them with rice and flowers upon their arrival, the paper said.
Jisr al-Shughour has witnessed the fiercest clashes in the Syria since the eruption of protests in mid March.