Damascus: Shades of Tripoli? (Updated)
In the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Sunday, some of the heaviest fighting yet experienced there erupted in a neighborhood about a 20-minute drive southwest of the city center, with activists calling it the first time government forces have shelled rebel holdouts in the capital.
With continual fighting across Syria, replacing what had been separate pockets that flared repeatedly, the International Committee of the Red Cross announced in Geneva on Sunday that the conflict could now be classified as a civil war.
The ruling could affect what use of force was legally justifiable under international law, The Associated Press reported.
Calling the conflict a civil war means that international humanitarian law applies, and it grants all parties in a conflict the right to use appropriate force to achieve their aims. The Red Cross assessment could also form the basis for future war crimes prosecutions and increase the legal consequences of any abuses. But it was not clear that it would have any concrete effect on the fighting.
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The BBC News is reporting that the Syrian capital Damascus is seeing some of the heaviest fighting of the conflict so far.
Plumes of smoke were seen rising from the suburbs as the army sought to drive out the Free Syrian Army.
The BBC’s Jim Muir says the clashes between government forces and Free Syrian Army rebels seem to be creeping ever closer to the heart of Damascus and the centre of the regime’s power.
Tanks and mortars were reportedly used on the southern edge of the city, in areas like Tadhamon and Midan and around nearby Palestinian refugee camps.
Residents were said to be fleeing some areas, while in other parts of the city protesters blocked motorways with burning tyres.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has now classified the violence in Syria as a “civil war” and the announcement “echoes both the UN’s head of peacekeeping Herve Ladsous and President Assad, who has said the country is at war.”
The significance of this declaration is that combatants across Syria are now subject to the Geneva Conventions, and those who violate the Convention rules can eventually be tried as war criminals.
It also means that the Red Cross must now monitor the conduct of the fighting and tell the warring parties what their obligations are, according to the BBC.
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