A rebel fighter stands on a ladder, firing his gun at Syrian Army positions from an old building in the Old City of Aleppo. Since July 2012 Aleppo, Syria's second city, has been fought over between Free Syrian Army fighters and other rebel units on one side and the Syrian Army on the other.Protests against the regime of Bashar Assad erupted in March 2011. Although initially peaceful, they were violently repressed by the Syrian army and police. In response to being ordered to shoot unarmed civilians, large numbers of men deserted and formed the core of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) which was soon joined by civilian volunteers. Since early 2012 the protest movement has escalated into a full scale civil war with sustained fighting throughout Syria between the regular army and its allied militias and the Free Syrian Army as well as other anti-regime groups, some of which include foreign jihadists. It is estimated that the conflict has so far claimed over 70,000 lives, including tens of thousands of civilians.