Damascus: The 17-month long conflict in Syria has finally taken the form of a full-fledged civil war, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Sunday.
The Geneva-based humanitarian agency’s assessment means that now international humanitarian law would apply throughout Syria.
"We are now talking about a non-international armed conflict in the country," ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan said.
"International humanitarian law applies to all areas where hostilities are taking place," he added.
Earlier, the Red Cross had confined its watch over three hotbeds of Syria violence - Homs, Hama and Idlib and termed them as localised civil wars between government forces and armed opposition.
But later as the violence escalated and spread wider, the Red Cross says, the civil war encompasses the entire area where the killings are taking place.
Coming in the zone of “civil war”, the rules of law, as prescribed by the Swiss-based group, will apply to both the parties involved in the conflict. This means that people involved in killings, toture, etc would have violated the international humanitarian law and would face prosecution over war crimes later.
International humanitarian law grants parties to a conflict the right to use appropriate force to achieve their aims. But attacks on civilians and abuse or killing of detainees can constitute war crimes.
Red Cross’ judgement comes on the heels of deadly killing in Syria’s village Tremseh, which was on Saturday visited by UN monitors. The UN claimed that Syrian Army used heavy artillery, helicopter gunships, militiamen, mortars killing many.
Monitors couldn’t specify the number of dead people there, but said the assault targeted rebels and opposition activists.
Meanwhile, Syria has categorically rejected the UN’s claims saying the assault at Tremseh was not a “massacre, but just a military operation between the army forces and armed groups that have slapped against the wall” the six-point plan of the UN-Arab League joint special envoy to Syria Kofi Annan.
Jihad Makdissi, Syria's foreign ministry spokesman, said, “What had been said about the use of heavy weapons was baseless. what happened wasn’t an attack on civilians."
He said only light weapons were used, including RPGs, adding that the air force wasn’t involved in the operation and neither did the tanks, contrary to what the UN observers said.
The 17-month long conflict in Syria has claimed the lives of over 17, 000 Syrians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
With Agency Inputs
First Published: Sunday, July 15, 2012, 19:59