Born on September 11, 1965, Bashar al-Assad took control of Syria after his father died in 2000. The reign of the unpopular Alawite led to a massive civil war and may have contributed to the rise of the "Islamic State."
Bashar al-Assad took control of Syria and its more than 20 million people when his father, Hafez, died in 2000. Many had hoped that Assad, who ran unopposed for the presidency, would institute reforms after decades of rule by the Baathist strongman. True freedom did not come about, however - a reality made clear in the violent government response to protests in 2011, which led to the beginning of Syria's civil war, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the displacement of millions.
The Lebanese army has announced a pause in fighting on the Syria-Lebanon border to allow negotiations over its soldiers held by "Islamic State" (IS). Syrian forces are also battling IS in the area with Hezbollah's help.
Carla Del Ponte says she intends to resign from a UN commission established to probe atrocities in Syria's civil war. The Swiss national came to prominence investigating atrocities in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
Syrian regime forces and moderate rebels have agreed to a ceasefire north of the city of Homs. The "de-escalation" zone created there will be monitored by Russian troops, and is the third of four planned "safe" areas.