A brief history of the Syrian civil war

A brief history of the Syrian civil war

Its been five years since the war began in Syria.

It's now being called the worst humanitarian crisis since the World War II and has so far killed more than 250,000 people.

But how did it all start?

Since the 1970s Syria's been led by the Assad family, who have ruled as dictators.

But things got messy when a revolutionary wave of protests and conflicts started in the Arab world in 2011.

The Assads refused to step down, instead opening fire on protesters, killing four people - considered the trigger for a civil war.

On one side, soldiers who support Bashar al-Assad's government, on the other, various groups of fighters known as rebels, who don't want him in power anymore.

Things became really complicated in 2014 when the extremist group known as Islamic State (IS) grew out of al-Qaeda and began taking over large areas of neighbouring Iraq, before moving into Syria.

That forced Mr al-Assad's troops and the rebels to fight IS while continuing to fight each other.

But it doesn't end there - the conflict has now drawn in major global powers.

Russia and its allies back Mr al-Assad.

They are continuing to supply weapons to the Syrian military and are launching airstrikes at IS targets in Syria.

Then there's the United States. It's also striking IS, but disagrees on the key issue of Mr al-Assad.

It wants him gone, and supports "moderate rebels".

So while everyone is trying to stop IS, the political stoush between Russia and the US about how to do it is overshadowing the bloody three-way civil war on the ground.

And in the middle, millions of Syrian civilians have either already fled the war-stricken country or are desperately trying to.