Red Cross formally declares Syria 'in a state of civil war'
'Pools of blood and brain matter were observed in a number of homes,' one statement reads
The international Red Cross has formally declared the uprising in Syria a
civil war, a status that implies the potential for potential war crimes
prosecutions. Syria's 16-month uprising has killed untold thousands of
unarmed civilian men, women and children which the government of
President Bashar al-Assad insists is the work of terrorists.
Bashar al-Assad in an interview, earlier this month, telling the Turkish paper Cumhuriyet he wished his defense forces had not shot down the Turkish jet.
The attack appeared to single out army defectors and activists. "Pools of blood and brain matter were observed in a number of homes," a U.N. statement said.
Syria denies these claims that government forces had used heavy weapons such as tanks, artillery and helicopters during the attack last week in Tremseh.
Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi says the incident was a military operation targeting armed fighters who had taken control of the village.
"What happened wasn't an attack on civilians," Makdissi says. He reported that 37 gunmen and two civilians were killed, which is a far lower death toll than the one put forward by anti-regime activists, some of whom estimated the dead at more than 100.
"What has been said about the use of heavy weapons is baseless," Makdissi added.
Syrian President Bashar Assad has been implicated in the massacre. The head of the U.N. observer mission said last week that monitors stationed near Tremseh saw the army using heavy weaponry and attack helicopters.
Activists say that opposition to government forces has killed more than 17,000 people. Violence continued across over the weekend with more clashes reported around the capital, Damascus.
With the declaration by the Red Cross that the Syrian conflict is a civil war, international humanitarian law now applies throughout the country.
Also known as "the rules of war," humanitarian law grants all parties in a conflict the right to use appropriate force to achieve their aims. The Geneva-based group's assessment is an important 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.
However -- war crimes prosecutions would have been possible even without the Red Cross statement. The recent pronouncement adds weight to any prosecution argument that Syria is in a state of war, a prerequisite for a war crimes case.
The armed uprising in Syria began more than a year ago, the ICRC has previously hesitated to call it a civil war - while many others have maintained that the ongoing conflict certainly fits that definition.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Syria, Red Cross, Bashar al-Assad, declaration, civil war
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