Editor's note: We continue to monitor progress in the joint Turkish-Free Syria Army operation against Islamic State militants in the Syrian border town of Jarablus. Turkish state media says fighters are at the town's "entrance." Rebel commanders tell Reuters about 50 percent of the town is now under their control. - Tricia
The Syrian civil war (Arabic: الحرب الأهلية السورية) is an ongoing multi-sided armed conflict with international interventions taking place in Syria. The unrest grew out of the 2011 Arab Spring protests, and escalated to armed conflict after President Bashar al-Assad's government violently repressed protests calling for his removal. The war is being fought among several factions: the Syrian Government, a loose alliance of Syrian Arab rebel groups, the Syrian Democratic Forces, Salafi jihadist groups (including al-Nusra Front) who often co-operate with the rebels, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). All sides continue to receive substantial support from foreign actors, leading many to label the conflict a proxy war waged by both regional and global powers.
Under the Assad regime, Syria went through significant neoliberal economic reform. This reform exacerbated disparities in wealth, which combined with a recession and several years of drought led to the spread of the Arab Spring to Syria. Protests quickly spread to the predominantly Kurdish areas of northern Syria.
Syrian opposition groups formed the Free Syrian Army and seized control of the area surrounding Aleppo and parts of Southern Syria. Over time, factions of the Syrian opposition split from the original moderate politics to pursue an Islamist vision for Syria, as al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). In the north, Syrian government forces largely withdrew to fight the FSA, allowing the Kurdish YPG to move in and claim de facto autonomy. In 2015 the YPG joined forces with Arab, Assyrian, Armenian and Turkmen groups forming the Syrian Democratic Forces.
As of February 2016 the government held 40% of Syria, ISIL held around 20-40%, Arab rebel groups (including al-Nusra Front) 20%, and 15-20% is held by the Syrian Democratic Forces. Both the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian Army have made recent gains against ISIL.
International organizations have accused the Syrian government, ISIL and other opposition forces of severe human rights violations, with multiple massacres occurring. The conflict caused a considerable displacement of population. On 1 February 2016, a formal start of the UN-mediated Geneva Syria peace talks was announced by the UN, with the fighting continuing unabated.