Red Cross: Syria now in civil war
Published Sunday, July 15, 2012
The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Sunday it now considers the conflict in Syria to be a full-blown civil war, meaning international humanitarian law applies throughout the country.
Also known as the rules of war, international humanitarian law grants parties to a conflict the right to use appropriate force to achieve their aims, and the Geneva-based group's assessment is an important reference for those parties to determine how much and what type of force they can use.
The assessment also can form the basis for war crimes prosecutions, especially if civilians are attacked or detained enemies are abused or killed.
"We are now talking about a non-international armed conflict in the country," ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan said.
Previously, the ICRC had restricted its assessment of the scope of the conflict to the hotspots of Idlib, Homs and Hama, but Hassan said the organization had determined the violence has spread beyond those areas.
"Hostilities have spread to other areas of the country," Hassan said. "International humanitarian law applies to all areas where hostilities are taking place."
Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to meet UN special envoy Kofi Annan in Moscow on Tuesday in a bid to bring about a negotiated settlement to the crisis.
Annan is expected to put pressure on Russia to do more to help end the bloodshed in Syria.
The Kremlin said Putin would underline Russia's support for Annan's peace plan, which calls for both the government and opposition in Syria to work together to end the crisis.
"During the course of the upcoming meeting, the plan is to ensure Russia's support for Annan's peace plan for the political, democratic regulation of the crisis in Syria," Putin's press service said in a statement.
"It is the Russian side's understanding that this plan is the only viable platform for the solution of Syria's internal problems."
Regime denies 'massacre'
Elsewhere on Sunday the Syrian regime denied its forces used tanks and helicopters in an assault on Traimseh, saying what happened in the central village was the result of clashes with rebels and not a "massacre."
Foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said 39 people were killed in Traimseh on Thursday, all but two of them armed men, and that government forces only used light weapons to target five buildings.
Following a visit to Traimseh on Saturday, the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) said heavy weapons were used and several homes were damaged, including five that were burned. It was unable to provide casualty figures.
"Government forces did not use helicopters and tanks," Makdissi told a news conference in Damascus, adding: "What happened was not an attack by the army on innocent civilians."
"The aim of this news conference is to tell people that what happened was not a massacre... It was a clash between regular forces and armed groups who do not believe in a peaceful solution. This is the reality, politically and militarily."
Makdissi staunchly denied reports suggesting that the Syrian army used aircraft in the assault on Treimsa.
"This is absolutely not true. Only troop carriers and lights weapons were used, the most powerful of weapons being RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades)," he said.
The ministry spokesman admitted that "the situation is difficult on the ground" but insisted that Syria is "in a state of defence not in a state of attack."
(Al-Akhbar, AFP, AP, Reuters)