BEIRUT (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Syria’s bloody war entered its eighth year on Thursday with thousands of civilians fleeing deadly assaults on besieged territory, and refugees in camps across its border falling deeper into poverty.
Over the past seven years, Syria’s conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of people, driven millions more from their homes, disturbed the regional balance of power and dragged in foreign nations whose rivalry has upset existing alliances.
The conflict grew out of popular protests against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011, and evolved into a violent insurgency and civil war after the government responded with force.
Here are some facts about what has been happening inside and outside the war-torn country:
- About 511,000 people have been killed in the Syrian war since it began seven years ago.
- More than 6 million people are uprooted within Syria and more than 5 million are refugees in neighboring countries - mostly in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan - and also throughout Europe.
- Syrian refugees in neighboring Lebanon are becoming poorer, with more than three-quarters living on less than $4 per day - leaving children at risk of child labor and early marriage.
- About 66,000 refugees returned to Syria in 2017.
- More than 3,900 civilians, including hundreds of minors and women, left Eastern Ghouta, the besieged rebel stronghold on the outskirts of Damascus, on Thursday in the largest displacement from the area since the government forces imposed their siege in 2013.
- Since Russia entered the war in 2015 on the side of Assad and his Iranian and Shi’ite militia allies, the government has reclaimed large areas including all the big rebel bastions in Syria’s main cities.
- Syrians are likely to file more than 2 million lawsuits seeking restitution for lost and damaged property.
- The United Nations said on Wednesday an estimated 2.9 million Syrians live in U.N.-declared hard-to-reach and besieged locations. It also said 6.5 million people in Syria lack enough to eat, while a further four million people are at risk of going hungry.
- Also on Wednesday, the U.N. said that in the first two months of this year there had been 67 verified attacks on health facilities, health workers and infrastructure. That amounted to more than half of all verified attacks in 2017.
Sources: Reuters; United Nations children’s agency UNICEF; U.N.’s World Food Programme; U.N. refugee agency UNHCR; the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based war monitor.