|Syria's history dates back to the ancient empires of the Hittites, Assyrians, and Persians. A number of conquerors controlled the region, including Babylonians, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, the Seleucid empire and Rome. Islam came to the region early on and for a period of 90 years (661-751), Damascus was the center of Islamic rule. The Turks arrived in the late 11th century and were in turn threatened by the Crusaders. But the 12th century's Saladin, succeeded in defeating both Turks and Crusaders. The Mamluk empire followed Saladin and Syria was twice attacked by the Mongols during the Mamluk era. The Mamluks were not defeated until the early 16th century by the Ottomans, who essentially retained control until the early 20th century. The League of Nations placed Syria and Lebanon under the control of France. As a reaction to the French in Syria professing loyalty to the Vichy government, Britain together with Free French forces invaded Syria in 1941, creating a Syrian republic the same year. Complete independence was declared in 1944. For the last fifty-plus years, Syria has been an implacable foe of its Middle East neighbor, Israel. Through various configurations, the government of Syria has spent most of its energies on maintaining either a hot war or an uneasy ceasefire with Israel. In 1967, Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel, which remains in Israeli hands though Syria tried (and failed) to recapture the area during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Tensions have persisted between Israel and Syria over Lebanon. Since the extremist Ba'ath party came to power in 1963, Syria has maintained a radical stance on most Middle Eastern affairs including terrorism. Syria's long-time leader Hafez el-Assad died in June 2000, a situation which will doubtless have significant ramifications on the stability of the country and the region.