Assad, Hafiz al-

Assad, Hafiz al-

biographical name

(born Oct. 6, 1930, Qardaha, Syria—died June 10, 2000, Damascus) President of Syria (1971–2000). He joined the Ba'th Party in 1946 and in 1955 became an air force pilot. He became air force commander (1963) after helping the Ba'thists gain power. After participating in a military coup in 1966, he became minister of defense. He led a coup in 1970 to replace his political mentor, Salah al-Jadid, as Syria's leader. He joined Egypt in a surprise attack on Israel (1973) but nearly 20 years later (1991) participated in peace negotiations with Israel in an effort to regain the Golan Heights, taken by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967. A longtime foe of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, he supported the Western alliance against Iraq in the Persian Gulf War (1990–91). He was succeeded by his son Bashshar.

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