Syria War Anniversary: These Pictures Show How The Country Has Changed After Seven Years of Conflict

Syria's devastating civil war reached its seventh year Thursday, with President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies taking on the last of the insurgents trying to unseat him. Meanwhile, the U.S. is caught in the middle of a new conflict between two of its partners.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based monitor tied to Syria's exiled opposition, reported Monday that more than 500,000 people have been killed since protests against Assad and his Baathist government broke out on March 15, 2011. In addition to the dead, many of whom have been civilians, the U.N. estimates that up to 5.4 million people have fled Syria and another 6.1 million have been internally displaced by the fighting.

When a series of regional demonstrations against political corruption, economic grievances and social repression reached Syria, it was met with a harsh response from local security forces, which soon faced an armed opposition backed by the West, Turkey and Gulf Arab states.

Related: U.S. is losing a top Syria war ally once again, this time to Assad

In the ensuing chaos, jihadi Sunni Muslim organizations such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) spread through rebel ranks, prompting the Kurds to form their own militias that were officially backed by the U.S. in October 2015, a month after Russia began its aerial campaign in support of Assad. These Kurdish fighters formed the ground assault vanguard for a U.S.-led coalition bombing ISIS, but they sided with Assad last month against a joint Turkish and rebel assault launched against Kurdish areas in Afrin, northwestern Syria.

As the Syrian military, backed by Russian warplanes and various pro-government militias—many of which were Iran-backed, mostly Shiite Muslim groups—took out the last of ISIS in eastern Syria, they have once again focused their efforts on battling the final strongholds of rebels and jihadis in the west, notably the northwestern province of Idlib and the Damascus suburbs of eastern Ghouta.

World powers have so far failed to find a solution to the complex conflict. Meanwhile, the fighting rages on in Afrin and eastern Ghouta, with all combatants blaming one another for one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. After seven years of conflict, these images show not only death and destruction but the cautious rehabilitation of some parts of Syria, even as others continue to suffer.

Syrians shout slogans in support of anti-government protesters in the southern city of Daraa during a protest in Moadamiyeh, near Damascus, on March 25, 2011. The demonstrations were lumped in with the regional movement known as the Arab Spring that gripped other countries, such as Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen. Stringer/Reuters
Supporters of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad shout slogans in Damascus on March 25, 2011. Throughout the war, the capital has remained a stronghold for Assad, who succeeded his father in 2000 and was initially seen by the West as a reformer. Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters
A Free Syrian Army fighter reacts after his friend was shot and killed by the Syrian army during clashes in the Salaheddine district in central Aleppo on August 4, 2012. The Free Syrian Army once led the insurgency with CIA support, but it fractured due to infighting and jihadi influence and now depends primarily on Turkish support. Goran Tomasevic/Reuters
On December 16, 2016, a pro-Syrian government fighter sits near damaged buildings in Aleppo's Salaheddine district. Assad's recapture of Aleppo was largely seen as a turning point in the war. OMAR SANADIKI/REUTERS
On September 2, 2015, the dead body of Alan Kurdi, a Syrian Kurd fleeing the war, lies on the shores in Bodrum, southern Turkey, after a boat carrying refugees sank while reaching the Greek island of Kos. Refugees continue to take the perilous journey from Syria, but some have returned as heavy fighting dwindled in major population centers. Nilufer Demir/DOGAN NEWS AGENCY/AFP/Getty Images
On March 31, 2016, a photographer holds his picture of Triumph's Arch taken on March 14, 2014, in front of the remains of the historic monument after it was destroyed by ISIS in October 2015 in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, which was later retaken by Syrian and Russian forces. Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images
Shops were shuttered in the souk in the old city of Aleppo, in northern Syria, on October 1, 2012, as fighting raged in the city between rebel forces and Syrian army troops. The war has left the Syrian economy in shambles, but countries such as Russia, Iran and China have begun to invest in its reconstruction. MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/GETTYIMAGES
Syrians gather during a celebration in Aleppo’s historic souk as it reopened on November 16, 2017. Since the government’s recapture of Aleppo on December 16, 2016, life has returned to some parts of the city, but others remain in ruins, and rebel groups maintain a presence west of the province. GEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Rebels celebrate in a street in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa after capturing it on March 4, 2013. Syria's opposition was a loosely affiliated coalition that included those fighting for democracy and many others seeking strict Sunni Muslim rule of law. MOHAMMAD AL-HUSSEIN/AFP/Getty Images
ISIS fighters participate in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province after taking over the area from rebel groups on June 30, 2014. ISIS formed from a merger of jihadi groups such as Al-Qaeda in Iraq that became active after the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein. It took advantage of Syria's unrest to spread there. Stringer/Reuters
Fighters of the U.S.-backed, mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces rode atop military vehicles as they celebrated victory in Raqqa, Syria, on October 17, 2017. The U.S. created the Syrian Democratic Forces as it cut back support to rebels, but the largely Kurdish forces' alleged ties to the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party have outraged Turkey. Erik De Castro/Reuters
Free Syrian Army fighters sit with Syrian Kurdish fighters inside a house in Ashrafieh, Aleppo, on August 5, 2013. The Syrian opposition flag, left, hangs next to the Kurdish flag on the wall behind. Many Syrian Kurds initially backed efforts to overthrow Assad, whom they accused of oppression. Aref Hretani/Reuters
Syrian rebels hold a Turkish national flag, right, and a Free Syrian Army flag, left, at a checkpoint in the Syrian town of Azaz on a road leading to Afrin, where they wanted to oust Syrian Kurds from power, on February 1. As the West began cutting ties to an increasingly jihadi opposition, Turkey became its primary sponsor and sponsored it to fight both ISIS and the Kurds. OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images
People wave the Syrian flag and portraits of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Kurdistan Workers’ Party leader Abdullah Ocalan as a convoy of pro-Syrian government fighters arrives in Syria's northwestern region of Afrin on February 22. Without U.S. support against Turkey, the Kurds appealed to Assad, who deployed forces to the front lines in Afrin. AHMAD SHAFIE BILAL/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Syrian women who are part of the rebel Sawt al-Haq (Voice of Rights) stand with their weapons as they undergo military training in Aleppo on February 17, 2013. After losing most of its major cities, the opposition has been mostly relegated to pockets of control, including in Idlib and outside of Damascus. Muzaffar Salman/Reuters
On March 13, Syrian army soldiers walk past a Russian army soldier on the government side of the Al-Wafideen checkpoint on the outskirts of Damascus, which neighbors the rebel-held eastern Ghouta enclave. The U.S. and other Western powers have accused Syria and Russia of targeting civilians in eastern Ghouta, but the two allies have blamed the humanitarian crisis there on the militants who shell Damascus. LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images
In this still image taken from a video shot by the Aleppo Media Center, Omran Daqneesh, 5, sits in an ambulance after being pulled out of a building hit by an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria, on August 17, 2016. Aleppo Media Center
A picture taken on June 6, 2017, shows Omran sitting on the lap of his father at their new home in Aleppo. The father blamed Syrian rebels for the attack that made his son famous and claimed the young boy was used for anti-government propaganda. GEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images
A map shows areas of control in Syria as of January 8 and March 8. ISIS and rebels once claimed more than half the country, but after seven years of war, the government has retained control of most of Syria's territory. Even so, pockets of rebel influence and large areas under the administration of a mostly Kurdish, U.S.-backed force still challenge Assad's rule. Institute for the Study of War/Reuters