A heavy year – steeped in blood from Syria and Iraq to Yemen, Gaza, Sudan, and Libya – has ended.
The tragedies of 2023 did not stand out, however. Its rundown of violence and conflict felt unexceptional as if we had become friends with death.
Syria: Natural disasters, war and crippling poverty
Not least in Syria, where the year brought an additional tragedy with an earthquake that struck the country’s north and the south of Turkey. Thousands died, and there was widespread destruction, compounding the devastation caused by the war waged by the regime and its allies against the Syrians.
President Bashar al-Assad saw an opportunity and did not conceal his satisfaction with the calamity. From the outset, he sought to leverage the earthquake for political gain, blaming delays in dealing with its victims on the international sanctions against his regime.
Nations swiftly mobilised to extend aid, yet, as anticipated by Syrians, the assistance failed to reach those in need. For days and weeks on end, people dug through the rubble with their bare hands to retrieve the bodies of their loved ones.
It was also the year Syria re-joined the Arab League, and al-Assad visited Riyadh, the UAE, and various other Arab nations. As anticipated by the Syrians, his regime failed to comply with any of the stipulations outlined in the Arab initiative.
The anticipated return of refugees did not materialise, and the flow of drugs exported by al-Assad and Iran to Arab nations did not cease. Progress on the political solution front and the implementation of Resolution 2254 remained conspicuously stagnant.
Israel persisted in its air strikes within Syria, including on bases in the country run by Iran-backed militias. It also hit Damascus and Aleppo airports multiple times, putting them out of service.
Israel assassinated Lebanese, Iranian, and Syrian figures. In response, the regime intensified its bombardment of Syrian civilians, killing more children.
The voices that traditionally rallied behind al-Assad began to rise against him in response to the widespread economic crisis, rising hunger and a surge in corruption.