The Syrian crisis began in early 2011 when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began a brutal crackdown on growing peaceful protests throughout the country. With the use of tanks, attack helicopters, and artillery against protesters and the torture and execution of children, protests spread and opposition groups took up arms. The attacks and counter-attacks escalated into a full-fledged civil war between the Assad regime with allied militias and an array of opposition groups. The death toll has now reached over 100,000, according the United Nations, and over 6 million people have been internally displaced or fled to other countries, half of them children.
The crisis has now grown to a regional crisis with severe implications for global peace and security. Regional powers are supplying weapons and other support to both sides, with Iran notably backing the Assad regime and Gulf States providing arms to the opposition. Sectarian violence related to the conflict has been seen in Lebanon and Iraq and millions of refugees have fled into neighboring countries. Appeals for international aid have increased as the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in September 2013 estimated that over 2 million Syrians were now refugees, up from around 230,000 just one year before.