Most Syrian refugees have fled to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
Despite the grim toll, al-Assad has not shown any signs of backing down.
Al-Assad and some in his inner circle are from Syria’s minority Alawites, or followers of an offshoot of Shiite Islam, who believe they would not have a place in Syria if the rebels win. Most of those trying to topple al-Assad are Sunni Muslims, with Islamic militants, including those linked to al-Qaeda, increasingly dominant among the rebels.
In an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro on Monday, al-Assad challenged the West to present proof of his regime’s alleged involvement in the purported chemical weapons attacks.
“If the Americans, the French or the British had a shred of proof, they would have shown it beginning on the first day,” he said, deriding Obama as “weak” and having buckled to US domestic political pressure.