1999: NATO intervention against Serbia

1999: NATO intervention against Serbia

Traces of war

In the late 1990s, the conflict in Kosovo was escalating as tens of thousands of people fled the region. After all efforts at pacifying the region failed, NATO began carrying out air raids on military bases and strategic targets in Serbia on March 24, 1999. Eleven weeks later, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic finally gave in.

1999: NATO intervention against Serbia

Peaceful resistance fails

In the mid 1980s, protests began in Kosovo against government attempts to curtail the rights of the Albanian majority. The reprisals worsened in the 1990s. Ibrahim Rugova, leader of the political movement in Kosovo since 1989, tried to make Milosevic change course using peaceful resistance - without success.

1999: NATO intervention against Serbia

Armed guerilla warfare

An armed resistance formed in Kosovo. The self-appointed liberation army UCK started a brutal guerrilla war and carried out violent attacks against Serbs and Albanians whom they saw as collaborators. Serbia reacted with retaliatory measures: Houses were torched and shops plundered, as hundreds of thousands fled the region.

1999: NATO intervention against Serbia

Systematic expulsion

As time passed, the war became ever more brutal. Serbian forces increasingly attacked civilians with the aim of breaking the UCK's resistance and its support among the population. Many people looked for refuge in the forests. Trains and trucks transport thousands of people to the borders - without passports or other documents which could prove that their home had been in Kosovo.

1999: NATO intervention against Serbia

Last attempt at negotiation

Under the auspices of the US, France, the UK, Russia and Germany, the conflicting parties attended a conference in Rambouillet, France in February 1999 with the aim of working out a limited settlement guaranteeing Kosovo's autonomy. Representatives of Kosovo accepted the conditions of the deal, but their Serbian counterparts were not willing to make any concessions. The negotiations failed.

1999: NATO intervention against Serbia

'Humanitarian intervention'

On March 24, 1999, NATO began bombarding military and strategic targets in Serbia and Kosovo in order to stop the violence against Albanians. Germany joined the military action, known as Operation Allied Force. It was NATO's first war in its 50-year history - and that without the official backing of the UN Security Council. Russia sharply condemned the intervention.

1999: NATO intervention against Serbia

Infrastructure destroyed

Next to military installations, NATO also attacked transportation networks such as railroad tracks and bridges. During the following 79 days and nights, the alliance carried out more than 37,000 operations with 20,000 rockets and bombs striking Serbian territory and killing countless civilians - what NATO referred to as "collateral damage."

1999: NATO intervention against Serbia

Poison clouds over Pancevo

Industrial sites were also among the targets. NATO bombs hit chemical plants and a fertilizer factory in the town of Pancevo near the capital, Belgrade. Huge amounts of toxic substances made their way into rivers, soil and the air, with grave health consequences for the local population. Serbia accused NATO of having used depleted uranium ammunition, as well as cluster and fragmentation bombs.

1999: NATO intervention against Serbia

War against war propaganda

In order to deprive Slobodan Milosevic of his most important propaganda tool, NATO decided to attack Serbia's public television station in Belgrade. The Serbian government, although told of the attack in advance, withheld the information from the public. Sixteen people lost their lives in the bombing.

1999: NATO intervention against Serbia

Off target

In Kosovo, NATO bombs inadvertently hit a group of Albanian refugees, killing an estimated 80 people. More "collateral damage" occurred when NATO bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, killing four people. The incident led to a severe diplomatic crisis between Beijing and Washington.

1999: NATO intervention against Serbia

Horrific outcome

In early June, communications out of Belgrade showed that Milosevic was finally willing to make concessions. NATO brought an end to its raids on June 19. During the air strikes, thousands of people were killed, 860,000 refugees were displaced and Serbia's economy and infrastructure were largely destroyed. Kosovo was placed under the administration of the United Nations.

The bombing of Serbia by NATO forces in 1999 brought an end to the attacks of Serbian troops against the Albanians in Kosovo. However, the war lacked a UN mandate and remains a controversial subject.

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