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Half million now dead in Syrian civil war; 85 percent civilians killed by government
A Syrian man cries as he sits on the rubble of a house after a reported attack by Syrian government forces in July 2015 the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. The Syrian civil war began seven years ago this week. (2015 file photo/Zein al-Rifai/AFP/Getty Images)

Half million now dead in Syrian civil war; 85 percent civilians killed by government

About 511,000 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war, and 85 percent were civilians who died at the hands of the Syrian regime and its allies, including Russia, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which provided its report to Reuters, “more than 350,000 of those killed” have been identified, “and the remainder were cases where it knew deaths had occurred but did not know the victims’ names.”

The United Nations reports that in addition to the half a million who have died, more than 5.4 million people have fled Syria since the war began. An additional 6.5 million Syrian refugees moved to different areas of Syria instead of fleeing it, according to a U.N. report from July of 2016. This latest report states that “more than half the pre-war population” has been forced to flee their homes.

The entire population of Syria was just over 18 million in July 2017, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Here's what you need to know about the Syrian civil war

The Syrian civil war began seven years ago this week, when Syrian security forces shot and killed protesters in the city of Daraa. Although Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a public speech hoping to end the unrest, he promised nothing specific and did nothing to change the situation.

The next few months were filled with a flurry of economic sanctions and condemnations from the United States, The Arab League, the United Nations and the European Union, among others. In October 2011, opposition leaders created the Syrian National Council, with the goal of deposing Assad and creating a democracy in Syria.

Assad has repeatedly been accused by the United States and other members of the international community of ruthlessly targeting civilians in an attempt to reassert his control over rebellious areas of Syria. Cities and regions under rebel control, including Aleppo and most recently Ghouta, have been bombarded by attacks with civilian populations trapped inside.

Assad has even used chemical weapons on his own people, including sarin and chlorine gases.

Attempts to broker a truce have all ultimately failed. On Feb. 24, the U.N. Security council approved a temporary cease-fire, but this has not yet taken effect. On Feb. 26, the Russian government ordered Syria to enact a daily five-hour cease-fire to allow humanitarian aid into the Ghouta suburbs of Damascus. This Russian-backed cease-fire began on Feb. 27, and was almost immediately broken.

While Assad calls himself a “president,” he has been in power since 2000, when his father, the former President Hafez al-Assad, died.

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