Fifteen months after the start of the uprising in Syria, several experts and at least one top U.N. official are now characterizing the escalating conflict as a Civil War. A wide range of anti-government insurgencies continue to battle official and unofficial Syrian government troops across the country. President Bashar al-Assad's forces have reportedly carried out a series of horrific civilian massacres, involving attack helicopters, shelling, and brutal incursions into rebel neighborhoods. The Syrian government continues to block foreign journalists, but a number of photographs and reports have made their way out of the country.
Birds fly over a destroyed minaret of a mosque at the northern town of Ariha, on the outskirts of Idlib, Syria, on June 10, 2012. An estimated 14,000 people have been killed since the uprising began in March last year.
The Syrian flag flying next to destruction in the Bab Amro neighborhood of Homs, Syria, on May 2, 2012.
(Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)
A Syrian man walks near part of a destroyed military tank with Arabic that reads, "freedom," at the northern town of Ariha, on the outskirts of Idlib, Syria, on June 10, 2012.
A view of the heavily destroyed Bab Amro neighborhood of Homs, on May 2, 2012.
(Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)
People gather at a mass burial for the victims purportedly killed during an artillery barrage from Syrian forces in Houla in this handout image dated May 26, 2012. U.N. observers in Syria have confirmed that artillery and tank shells were fired at a residential area of Houla, Syria, where at least 108 people, including many children, were killed, the U.N. chief said on Sunday in a letter to the Security Council.
(Reuters/Shaam News Network)
This citizen journalism image released by Sham News Network taken on June 9, 2012, purports to show anti-Syrian regime mourners raising their hands as they carry the coffins of Syrian citizens killed by Syrian troops, in Daraa, Syria. According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, tens died in heavy pre-dawn shelling on Saturday in Daraa, where the uprising against Assad began in March 2011.
Syrian boys stand in a building damaged by tank shells in a neighborhood of Damascus, Syria, after a raid by Syrian troops killed several rebels and civilians on April 5, 2012. Syrian troops launched a fierce assault days ahead of a deadline for a U.N.-brokered cease-fire, with activists describing it as one of the most violent attacks around the capital since the uprising began.
(AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)
Free Syrian Army fighters sit in a house on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria, on June 12, 2012. Syrian forces pelted the eastern city of Deir el-Zour with mortars as anti-government protesters were dispersing before dawn, killing several people, activists said. The offensives were part of an escalation of violence in recent weeks that has brought more international pressure on President Bashar Assad's regime faces over its brutal tactics against the opposition. The U.N. accused the government of using children as human shields in a new report.
A frame grab made from an amateur video provided by Syrian activists on May 28, 2012, purports to show the massacre in Houla on May 25 that killed more than 100 people, many of them children. The amateur footage showed people running along a street, purportedly just after the attack on Houla started.
(AP Photo/Amateur Video via AP video)
A Sunni gunman, near a burning building during clashes that erupted in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Saturday, June 2, 2012. Gunbattles between pro- and anti-Syrian groups in northern Lebanon killed at least one person and wounded nine Saturday, security officials said, as activists reported fresh shelling of a region in central Syria that witnessed a massacre last week that killed tens of people.
(AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
An injured Syrian army soldier, who was wounded after a roadside bomb hit his military truck, is helped by a comrade, in Daraa city, Syria, on May 9, 2012. The explosion targeted the Syrian military truck just seconds after a team of U.N. observers passed by. An Associated Press reporter who was traveling in the U.N. convoy said three bloodied Syrian soldiers were rushed from the scene after Wednesday's blast, but the U.N. convoy was not hit.
(AP Photo/Muzaffar Salman)
People gather at the site of an explosion, as seen from a damaged house close to the site in Damascus May 10, 2012. Two large explosions killed 40 people in Damascus, state media said, destroying dozens of cars on a highway and damaging an intelligence complex involved in President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on a 15-month-old uprising.
A Syrian man carries a wounded girl next to Red Crescent ambulances following an explosion that targeted a military bus near Qudssaya, a neighborhood of the Syrian capital, on June 8, 2012. At least seven people were killed in blasts near Damascus and in Idlib city in Syria's restive northwest, among them four security forces members, a watchdog group said.
Nearly a year after it began, the violence in Syria carries on. Despite tightening international sanctions, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's troops continue to attack opposition strongholds across the country. As the shelling of the city of Homs continues, fresh offensives have just started in the province of Idlib, where government troops reportedly fired artillery, mortars, and anti-aircraft guns at several towns. Over the weekend, the United States and European and Arab countries held a "friends of Syria" conference in Tunisia to work out a plan to end the violence. Talk of arming the opposition is muted, due to deep divisions within the cluster of groups opposed to Assad's rule. And there are fears that supplying weapons to Assad's disjointed group of opponents might lead to further instability -- and that the unrest might spread to neighboring countries. Meanwhile, thousands have died, international intervention has had little effect, and no end appears in sight.
A Syrian boy stands in front of a damaged armored vehicle belonging to the Syrian army in a street in Homs, on January 23, 2012.
Residents protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad after a burial ceremony for what activists say are victims of shelling by the Syrian army, in the Khalidiya neighborhood in Homs, on February 4, 2012. Syrian forces killed more than 200 people in an assault on the city of Homs, activists said, the bloodiest day of an 11-month uprising against Assad.
Syrian government tanks, in the streets of Bab Amro, near the city of Homs, on February 12, 2012. Syrian forces recently resumed their bombardment of the city of Homs, with government troops concentrating their fire on Baba Amro neighborhood in the south of the city and al-Waer in the west. Opposition campaigners said tank fire was concentrated on two large Sunni Muslim neighborhoods that have been at the forefront of opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.
(1 of 2) A man runs to help another man lying on the ground after a rocket attack on January 11, 2012, in the western city of Homs. The impact site of the rocket can be seen on the sidewalk at lower right. French journalist Gilles Jacquier was killed and a number of other reporters were wounded when a rocket exploded as they covered a story in Homs, a witness told AFP. The journalists were on a visit organized by the authorities.
(Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)
Hassan Saad, 13, who fled Idlib in Syria, flashes a victory sign while walking outside the refugees camp near the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern city of Yayladagi, on February 16, 2012. Hassan said that his father was killed by the pro-Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad army five months ago.
Syrians carry the body of a man reportedly killed in violence in the northwestern Idlib region, on February 23, 2012. Three soldiers were killed and seven others wounded in a bomb at the southern entrance to Idlib city, according to the official SANA state news agency.
(Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)
In this Wednesday, February 15, 2012 file citizen journalism image provided by the Local Coordination Committees in Syria, anti-Syrian regime activist Khaled Abu-Salah stands in front of flames and black smoke from a bombed oil pipeline, in Baba Amr neighborhood in Homs province, central Syria. Syrian troops intensively shelled rebel-held neighborhoods in the restive central city of Homs, on Friday and killed at least five people, activists said.
(AP Photo/Local Coordination Committees in Syria)
This Wednesday February 15, 2012 satellite image shows a pipeline fire in Homs, Syria. The pipeline, which runs through the rebel-held neighborhood of Baba Amr, in Homs, had been shelled by regime troops for the previous 12 days, according to two activist groups, the Local Coordination Committees and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The state news agency, SANA, blamed "armed terrorists" for the pipeline attack last week. It said the pipeline feeds the tankers in the Damascus suburb of Adra, which contribute in supplying gasoline to the capital and southern regions.
Syrians demonstrate against the regime after Friday prayers in the north Syrian city of Idlib, on February 17, 2012. Thousands of Syrians rallied to demand Bashar al-Assad's ouster, as the embattled president's forces unleashed their heaviest pounding yet of Homs in a brutal bid to crush dissent, monitors said.
(Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators hold a banner during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, after Friday prayers in Kafranbel, near Idlib, Syria, on February 17, 2012. Demonstrations against Assad were reported by activists in several cities across Syria, including the capital Damascus and the commercial hub Aleppo, after Friday Muslim prayers despite the threat of violence from security forces.
Police helmets and other equipment lie on the ground outside the police headquarters building, one of two sites of bomb blasts in Syria's northern city of Aleppo, on February 10, 2012. Twenty-five people were killed and 175 people were wounded in two blasts targeting security bases in Aleppo, state television quoted the Health Ministry as saying.
(Reuters/ George Orfalian)
A trail of blood leads through the doorway of a damaged house after government forces pummeled the opposition-held area of Bab Amro, in this picture received on February 16, 2012. An intense bombardment hit the mainly Sunni Muslim area of Baba Amro after Alawite-led troops, backed by Armour, advanced from neighboring Inshaat, opposition activists there said.
Muhammad, a 17-year-old Syrian man brought into Jordan for medical treatment, sits on a bed after undergoing multiple reconstructive surgeries at the Red Crescent Hospital in Amman, on February 9, 2012. Muhammad covered his face to conceal his identity. Doctors at the hospital said tens of young Syrians injured during the violence in their country are currently receiving treatment at the hospital run by Paris-based Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
A Syrian man shows his badly-injured hand, which he said was inflicted by Syrian security forces, at a temporary shelter after undergoing multiple reconstructive surgeries at a Red Crescent Hospital in Amman, on February 13, 2012. Syrians injured during the violence in their country are currently receiving treatment at a hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Amman. The men covered their faces to conceal their identity.
A Syrian rebel aims his rifle inside a classroom at a school in Deir Baalbeh neighborhood in Homs province, Syria, on February 22, 2012. Over the weekend, Syrians approved a new draft constitution aimed at quelling the country's uprising by ending the ruling Baath Party's five-decade domination of power, but the opposition boycotted the vote, and foreign officials have callled the referendum a sham.
The wave of unrest that erupted in the Arab world last year reached Syria in March, with widespread protests against President Bashar al-Assad. Assad's troops began a series of harsh crackdowns, in some cases shelling and occupying residential areas. The UN estimates more than 5,000 Syrians have been killed in the past 10 months. Thousands continue to protest, despite the threat of government snipers in the streets and alleged incidents of torture and execution by Syrian forces. The Arab League, Europe, and the United States have all imposed stringent trade sanctions against Syria, and the Arab League has sent in a team of observers to monitor the situation -- but nearly 150 Syrians have reportedly been killed since the observers arrived two weeks ago. The Arab League mission will issue a full report on January 19, possibly referring the issue to the United Nations. However, Russia and China oppose UN action, and the U.S. and Europe do not appear to be planning any Libya-style intervention. Gathered here are images of the unrest in Syria over the past several weeks. Many of these photos have been made available despite harsh government restrictions on reporting.
Former Syrian soldiers, now defectors, position their weapons as they take cover behind the wall of a damaged house in the Baba Amr area, in Homs province, Syria, on December 19, 2011. Arab League monitors kicked off their one month mission in Syria with a visit to Homs on December 27, 2011.
Demonstrators protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad after Friday prayers in Hula near Homs, on January 6, 2012. The banner on right reads, "To the free world; we are waiting for you as we die". The banner in center reads, "Your conscience is on trial" and the banner on left reads, "We will not retreat, you will give up".
A Syrian tank, driving through the city of Homs, on December 26, 2011, seen in a video grab. Heavy gunfire killed 23 people in Syria's besieged city of Homs on December 26, as newly arriving Arab League observers were urged to head immediately to one of the country's most serious hot spots.
A protester in the flahspoint central Syrian city of Homs throws a tear gas bomb back towards security forces, on December 27, 2011. Syrian police used tear gas to disperse some 70,000 people who took to the streets of Homs as Arab observers visited there a day after dozens of people died in the crackdown on dissent.
In this image from TV made available on December 15, 2011, a man lies in the street, apparently dead, in Homs, Syria, on December 14, 2011. The man is thought to have gone out to buy bread when he was shot by a Syrian government sniper, but it is impossible to check details of the incident. Amateur video emerged on Tg violence in the restive country.
(AP Photo) #
Protesters cover their faces from tear gas being fired in Adlb, on December 30, 2011. Syrian security forces, undaunted by the presence of Arab League observers, killed at least a dozen protesters that day, as hundreds of thousands demonstrated against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, opposition activists said.
Anti-government protesters attend the funeral of protesters killed in earlier clashes in Damascus suburb of Zabadani, on December 21, 2011. Nearly 50 people were killed in Syria on December 21, an activist group said, two days before Arab League officials were arrived to prepare for a monitoring mission assessing Syrian compliance with a plan to stem the bloodshed.
A Syrian police officer, right, watches the TV news as he sits inside his damaged office at a police station, in Midan neighborhood, in Damascus, Syria, on January 6, 2012. An explosion ripped through a busy intersection in the Syrian capital Friday, hitting a police bus and killing many in a suicide attack that left pools of blood in the streets and marked the second deadly attack in the capital in as many weeks, Syrian authorities said.
(AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi)
Syrian soldiers stand with a Syrian villager on their country's side of the border with Lebanon in the village of Arida, north Lebanon, on October 31, 2011. Syrian officials and witnesses say Damascus is planting landmines along parts of the border with Lebanon. The Syrian official familiar with government strategy said the mines are meant to prevent arms smuggling across the border.
(AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Syrian refugees, who fled the violence in Homs, sit around a stove during an interview with Reuters in a temporary home at Aarsal town in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa, on December 8, 2011. Over 5,000 Syrians have died in a crackdown on the ten-month revolt against President Bashar al-Assad's rule. Thousands more wounded, who dare not seek help at home because their bullet and shrapnel wounds would betray them to the police as protesters or insurgents. Some manage to make the short but risky trek to Lebanon for medical care, sneaking past army troops, navigating mined borders and withstanding bitter winter cold.
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A Syrian medic shows the body of Nafla al-Darwish, a 37-year-old woman, seven months pregnant, who was gunned down in the Bayada neighborhood, at a hospital in the flashpoint city of Homs, on November 25, 2011. Explanations for Nafla's death differ. A doctor in the hospital said she was killed by a single bullet fired from a passing car. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a human rights group, said she was killed during a house search.
(Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images)
Soldiers of the Free Syrian Army, formed by army deserters, take position in an undisclosed location in Syria, on December 7, 2011. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied ordering the killing of thousands of protesters and said "only a crazy person" would target his own people as global pressure mounted on his regime.
(Ricardo Garcia Vilanova/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian Greek Orthodox priests pray during a mass held at a church in Damascus, on January 9, 2012, in memory of a Christian boy named Sari (in portrait), killed recently in fighting in Homs, and for the son of Syria's Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, who was also killed in October. The Arab League pressed on with its mission to halt 10 months of bloodshed in Syria despite charges it was only serving to cover up the regime's deadly crackdown on protests.
(Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)
Boys remove debris from houses that residents say were damaged during a military crackdown on protesters against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Talbiseh, on January 8, 2012. The Arab League urged the Syrian government on Sunday to stop its violence against protesters and allow Arab monitors in the country to work more independently, but stopped short of asking for United Nations experts to bolster its peace mission.
Syria's Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun sheds a tear during a mass held at a Greek Orthodox church in Damascus on January 9, 2012, in memory of two victims of recent fighting in the country, his own son, Saria, who was killed in October in Homs, and a 10-year-old Christian boy, killed recently as he ventured out to buy cookies.
(Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)