Before Tuesday's sarin attack, Bashar Assad committed a litany of human rights abuses
On Tuesday, a chemical attack deployed in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun killed more than 70 civilians civilians. By Wednesday, the United States had ordered a retaliatory airstrike against the government airbase where the chemicals had originated.
"There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and ignored the urging of the U.N. Security Council." U.S. President Donald Trump said in a statement from his Mar-a-Lago home on the eve of the strike.
Although Tuesday's attack — which a Turkish investigation subsequently confirmed had involved the use of the nerve gas sarin — incited the first direct military action against the Syrian government by the U.S. since the country's vicious civil war began, it was far from the first time pro-Assad forces had committed atrocities against civilians.
Below is a list of some of the horrors the Assad regime has inflicted upon Syrians in recent years.
• As crowds assembled in Dara'a and other Syrian cities to protest years of oppression under the Assad family's rule, military troops dispatched to quell the demonstrations opened fire indiscriminately. Peaceful protesters were killed by the dozens, prompting outrage from much of the international community.
• An Oct. 11 report by Human Rights Watch alleged that, despite government denials, the organization had found, "mounting evidence [that] shows that Syria's air force is continuing to drop cluster bombs on towns across five governorates."
• On March 19, conflicting reports emerged from the Syrian government and the opposition over which side was responsible for a chemical attack that had killed 26 people in Khan al-Assal. A subsequent U.N. investigation revealed that sarin nerve gas had been used.
• A Syrian military photographer who defected to the West procured images he took of a warehouse in Damascus that had been used to house an estimated 10,000 corpses. The bodies, amassed between 2011 and 2013, were those of Assad's political opponents, and exhibited signs of having being tortured to death.
• In August, hundreds within the rebel-held suburbs of Damascus suffered convulsions, foaming at the mouth and death by suffocation. U.N. investigators discovered that, again, sarin — this time loaded into missiles and fired on civilians as they slept — was to blame.
• Despite the 2014 passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2139, which strongly condemned the human rights violations and abuses occurring daily during the armed conflict, Syrian military forces deployed a continuous barrage of barrel bombs that year.
• Aleppo, which was hit particularly hard, saw more than 3,000 civilian deaths as a result of the onslaught.
• According to an Amnesty International report, barrel bomb attacks by the regime peaked between April and July of 2014, with an average of 107 attacks per month.
• Reports emerged in August that chlorine gas had been dumped on rebel-held areas by government forces.
• The government is accused of systematically cutting off humanitarian aid to the besieged city of Madaya, where residents are forced to use grass to make soup.
• A U.N. aid convoy was bombed and destroyed as it traveled across combat lines in Syria, prompting swift denials from Russian military forces that they had been responsible for the attack. The U.N. called the strike a "flagrant violation of international law" and said that it could amount to a war crime.
• According to a Human Rights Watch report, the death toll of the war reached 470,000 in 2016. The number of internally displaced Syrians hit 6.1 million, with an additional 4.8 million seeking refuge outside the country's borders.
• Amid increased soft-talk on Assad from the Trump administration, Syrian government forces step up their aggression, deploying sarin gas on civilians via an airstrike in Khan Sheihkoun that killed more than 70 men, women and children.