Warning: Contains graphic images
THIS TIME LAST year, the United Nations estimated that about 40,000 people had been killed since the conflict in Syria started in March 2011.
By September 2013, that figure has jumped to at least 120,000 – with some charities placing it closer to 130,000 now.
The rising death toll includes army soldiers loyal to President Bashar Assad, Free Syrian Army fighters and ordinary civilians – men, women and children.
In December 2012, there were about 3,000 people leaving their homes every day because of violence. This month, the total number of displaced people surpassed 8 million.
Syrians stomp on a portrait during a demonstration in the neighborhood of Bustan Al-Qasr, Aleppo on 4 January. (Image: Andoni Lubaki/AP/Press Association Images)
A Syrian man uses his mobile phone to capture a child using a megaphone to lead others in chanting Free Syrian Army slogans during the same rally. (Image: Andoni Lubaki/AP/Press Association Images)
A Free Syrian Army fighter feeds a cat bread in the old city of Aleppo, Syria on 6 January. (Image: Andoni Lubaki/AP/Press Association Images)
Syrian men leave the old city of Aleppo on 6 January. (Image: Andoni Lubaki/AP/Press Association Images)
What started as a peaceful uprising as part of the Arab Spring more than two-and-a-half years ago has escalated into all-out civil war with a sectarian element.
By January 2013, the UN estimated that 60,000 had been killed.
Children have not been protected during the war and devastating images of young boys and girls who have suffered gunshot wounds or shrapnel injuries have emerged, despite strict rules on visiting journalists and photographers.
However, because of the restrictions, it is often unclear who is responsible for the attacks – the Free Syrian Army, mercenary fighters or the Assad regime.
A Syrian girl, Bushra al-Hassan, 4, injured from a government airstrike, cries at Jabal al-Zaweya village of Sarjeh, in Idlib on Monday 25 February. (Image: AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Displaced Syrian children are reflected in a puddle as they walk through an olive tree field near the Azaz camp for displaced people, north of Aleppo on 21 February. (Image: AP Photo/Manu Brabo)
Free Syrian Army fighters take their positions as they observe the Syrian army forces base of Wadi al-Deif at the front line of Maarat al-Nuaman town in the Idlib province on 26 February. (Image: Hussein Malla/AP/Press Association Images)
Nihal, 9, looks at the entrance of an underground Roman tomb used as shelter from Syrian government forces shelling and airstrikes at Jabal al-Zaweya on 28 February. (Image: (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Across northern Syria, rebels, soldiers and civilians made use of the country’s wealth of ancient and medieval antiquities to protect themselves from violence. They are built of thick stone that has already withstood centuries and are often located in strategic locations overlooking towns and roads.
One of the deadliest days of the conflict this year was witnessed in Damascus on 21 February when 83 people – mostly civilians- were reportedly killed.
According to Human Rights Watch, regime forces executed at least 248 people in the villages of Bayda and Banias on 2 and 3 Mary.
However, there is still support for Assad across the globe.
A Syrian man wrapped in a Syrian flag with a portrait of President Bashar Assad walks past anti-riot police during an anti-Israeli demonstration in front of the UN office in Tehran, Iran on 6 May. (Image: AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Russia remained a steadfast ally, blocking any moves by other international powers to rally the United Nations into action – military or otherwise.
President Barack Obama meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Enniskillen on 17 June. (Image: AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Obama and Putin discussed the ongoing conflict in Syria during their bilateral meeting at the G8 meeting in Fermanagh but could not reach a consensus on how to deal with the ongoing violence.
Meanwhile, back on the ground refugees tried to live a life with a semblance of normality.
Twin sisters, who fled the fighting in Syria with their family, sit at their desks at the UNICEF school, during a visit by the Italian foreign minister, Emma Bonino to the Zaatari refugee camp near the Syrian border, in Mafraq, Jordan on 25 June. (Image: AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)
According to the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF), close to 6.3 million people need urgent, life-saving food aid across Syria. The country’s World Food Programme co-ordinator has called it the “worst humanitarian crisis that we have seen in decades”.
Every day, more and more people are pushed into hunger. By now, about 3 million people have fled to refugee camps in neighbouring Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and the Lebanon.
Syrian refugee Khaled Ammar, 7, opens the side net window to let air into his family’s tent at Zaatari refugee camp, near the Syrian border, in Mafraq, Jordan on 23 July. Zaatari is home to about 120,000 Syrians. (Image: Mohammad Hannon/AP/Press Association Images)
A girl is treated for injuries inflicted by chemical weapons on 21 August in Ghouta. (AP Photo)
The world was shocked to its core when images of young children who had perished in a serious chemical attack appeared online. Once they were verified by newswire, Associated Press, the terrifying photographs were published on front pages across the globe, upping pressure on world leaders to act.
This image provided by Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show the dead bodies of children after an attack on Ghouta, Syria on 21 August. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network)
The UN sent in a team of experts, led by Swede Ake Sellstrom, to investigate whether chemical weapons had been used. Although they could not say which side used the destructive gases, their report concluded – on the back of clear and convincing evidence – that chemical weapons were used on five occasions throughout the year.
Assad denied being behind the attack that allegedly killed more than 1,400 civilians on 21 August.
There were talks of a US-led punitive strike in the days after the massacre unless Assad agreed to give up his chemical weapons arsenal, something he eventually agreed to.
A man holds a poster depicting former US president George W Bush putting on a mask of US President Barack Obama during a demonstration against a possible military strike in Syria, near the U.S. Embassy in Awkar, east of Beirut on 7 September. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
Military intervention was avoided as the country promised to destroy all of its chemical weapons production equipment by the end of October and all of its current arsenal by the end of the year.
However, the violence and suffering did not stop.
In this Sunday, 22 September photo, a Syrian man with more than half his body burnt from an air strike leaves a field hospital to go back home to a village which has been turned into a battlefield for government forces and the Free Syrian Army. (AP Photo)
On 11 September, a Syrian woman adjusts her scarf inside her tent at a temporary refugee camp in the eastern Lebanese town of al-Faour. On that day, President Michel Suleiman said at least one million Syrian refugees are in Lebanon, with thousands more crossing over each week. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
A Syrian doctor touches the forehead of a wounded Free Syrian Army fighter laying on a bed at a field hospital in the Idlib province, northern Syria on 22 September. (AP Photo)
On 27 September, a displaced Syrian child plays with his baby brother near Kafer Rouma, ancient ruins used as temporary shelter by those families who have fled from the heavy fighting and shelling in the Idlib province countryside of Syria. (Image: AP Photo)
As the violence becomes increasingly sectarian, Jihadist fighters are accused by Human Rights Watch of killing on 190 civilians earlier in the year. The group claimed the dead included 67 people from Assad’s Alawite minority who were executed. It is the largest atrocity ever attributed to rebels.
On the diplomatic front, world leaders try to get Syrian Opposition groups to sit down with members of the Assad government.
The Geneva peace talks set to take place on November 23 have been repeatedly postponed.
Meanwhile, life on the ground continues. Some attempt to live on in their own homes, while others seek alternatives.
A young girl reacts to the buzz of stray bullets overhead as she pushes water from the roof of her family house in Kfar Lata on 3 October. A ghost village at the top of a mountain in Idlib, it is subdued under heavy shelling and bombardments. The sprawling, three-generation family of Mohammed Kale refuses to leave their home; a boxy, multi-story concrete apartment that holds the entire family. The men want to stay back and fight. Their elder patriarch, 65-year-old Mohammed Kale, fears they will suffer in moving, penniless, from their home. (AP Photo)
Syrian refugees say goodbye to relatives at the International Organization for Migration office before some board a bus to Beirut International Airport for a flight to Germany where they have been accepted for temporary resettlement. The dozens of Syrians heading to Germany on 10 October were the second batch of the 4,000 refugees that Germany has accepted to receive on two-year visas. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
21-month-old Syrian refugee Omar Gharibt cries as he stands in the outskirts of Tripoli in Lebanon, after his family fled their home in Syria when their house was destroyed and his uncle killed during fighting. (Image: Danny Lawson/PA Wire/Press Association Images)
A Syrian boy has his haircut in the corridor of newly-opened refugee camp, in an old school in Sofia, on 26 October as volunteers provide medical and food aid to hundreds of refugees . Bulgaria is a gateway to the European Union for refugees fleeing Syria via Turkey, many crossing the border illegally to seek asylum. Bulgaria asked and was promised EU aid to deal with the ongoing refugee influx. (Image: Valentina Petrova/AP/Press Association Images)
In this 24 October photograph, young Syrians dance at a popular bar in the Old City in Damascus. While most people in the capital lock themselves fearfully in their homes as the night falls, the joyful crowd – dressed in tight jeans and designer clothes – go wild with the sound of local Arab hits, clapping and dancing and deafening the booms of the artillery outside. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)
A Syrian refugee, who gave himself the name Nidal, covered his face to protect his identity on 24 October in the Caritas Community Centre in Amman, Jordan. He survived an attack that killed his cousin and three neighbours. (Image: Danny Lawson/PA Wire/Press Association Images)
A Syrian child looks out through his tent at a refugee camp in the eastern Lebanese border town of Arsal, Lebanon on 29 November 2013. Every morning in northeastern Lebanon, hundreds of Syrian children are picked up from dozens of informal refugee settlements, loaded onto trucks and taken to the fields where they work for six to eight hours, earning up to four dollars a day. The kids are among a growing number of Syrian refugee children in Lebanon and Jordan who are fast becoming primary providers for families who lack resources for basic survival, according to a report by the UN refugee agency. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Syrian refugee women stand in line to receive their families share of winter aid kits at Zaatari refugee camp, near the Syrian border, in Mafraq on 3 December. Cranes lifted trailers into place and tents are packed away as international aid workers rush to winter-proof the massive refugee camp in Jordan as they try to avoid a repeat of last year when three days of torrential ran turned Zaatari into a muddy swamp. Plans to distribute clothing, blankets and electric heaters come as the 120,000 residents brace for their third winter in exile. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)
People play in the snow in Damascus, Syria on 13 December as a blustery storm, dubbed Alexa, brought gusty winds, torrential rains and heavy snowfall to most parts of Syria and the entire Middle East. The snow has heaped another layer of misery on the already grim existence of many of the millions of Syrians who have fled the civil war raging in their homeland. (AP Photo)
As the harshest winter conditions in more than 100 years befall Syria, international aid agencies have criticised the international community’s response to the crisis.
The UN has launched its biggest ever appeal as it seeks €4.7 billion to provide the necessary aid to victims.
“The levels of response (and non-response) by wealthy countries to the greatest humanitarian crisis in recent times is nothing short of disgraceful,” Goal CEO Barry Andrews said recently, referencing a paltry €700,000 gifted by China and the failure of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to give anything.
The UN has predicted that three-quarters of Syria’s 22.4 million population will require assistance over the next 12 months.
Within that time frame, world leaders must look for solutions to both the humanitarian and political crises.
“The warring parties continue to disregard their legal and moral responsibilities to protect the civilian population,” commented US Secretary of State John Kerry who noted that the vast majority of killings and destruction are carried out by traditional weapons – and not chemical ones.
He is hopeful that a political solution can be sought at the round table whenever the Geneva II talks get underway.
Explainer: What is going on in Syria?