Southern Syria

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Territories included in Syrian provinces throughout the Ottoman era

Southern Syria (سوريا الجنوبية, Suriyya al-Janubiyya) is a term that refers to the southern part of the Syria region, also known as the Levant.

The term 'Southern Syria' first appeared in Arabic sources in 1918, shortly after the Arab nobleman, soon to be King Faysal revolted against the Ottoman Empire in 1916 during the First World War and established an Arab Kingdom in Damascus in 1918, which he ruled for the better part of two years. Most Arabs in Palestine thought naively that if they could convince Palestine’s British conquerors that the land had always been part of Syria—indeed, that it was called Southern Syria—then Great Britain might withdraw its troops from the region and hand Palestine over to Faysal.[1]

In Arabic, the term "Southern Syria" could imply support for the Greater Syria nationalism associated with the kingdom promised to the Hashemite dynasty of the Hejaz by the British during World War I. After the war, the Hashemite prince Faisal attempted to establish such a Greater Syrian or pan-Mashriq state—a united kingdom that would comprise all of what eventually became Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Kuwait and Iraq, but he was stymied by conflicting promises made by the British to different parties (see Sykes–Picot Agreement), leading to the French creation of the mandate of Syria and Lebanon in 1920. Through the Ottoman period, prior to World War I, the Levant was administered and viewed locally as one entity, divided into provinces.

Use of the term was common by the early 20th century[2] and still an occasionally used term in politics, literature and local history of the region.[3][4]

According to the Minutes of the Ninth Session of the League of Nations' Permanent Mandate Commission, "Southern Syria" was suggested as the name of Mandatory Palestine in the Arabic language. The reports say the following:

"Colonel Symes explained that the country was described as 'Palestine' by Europeans and as 'Falestin' by the Arabs. The Hebrew name for the country was the designation 'Land of Israel', and the Government, to meet Jewish wishes, had agreed that the word "Palestine" in Hebrew characters should be followed in all official documents by the initials which stood for that designation. As a set-off to this, certain of the Arab politicians suggested that the country should be called 'Southern Syria' in order to emphasise its close relation with another Arab State".[5]


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