Red Cross Widens Area Involved in Syrian Civil War

Posted July 16th, 2012 at 1:40 am (UTC-5)
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The International Red Cross says there is now a “non-international armed conflict” – or civil war – across more parts of Syria, widening its earlier designation.

The group had previously said such conflict existed between government forces and opposition groups in the flashpoint areas of Homs, Hama and Idlib. But ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan said Sunday that hostilities have spread to other parts of Syria.

Hassan told VOA last month that such a designation is based on the intensity of the conflict and the organization of the armed groups, and that it aims to give potential victims “the best protection possible.”

He said Sunday that international humanitarian law applies to any area where there is fighting between government forces and the opposition.

That law spells out protections for civilians, saying they “shall not be the object of attack.” Violations could lead to war crimes prosecutions.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said last month his country is in a “state of war.”

As the fighting continues, the United Nations humanitarian affairs office is appealing for donors to help its mission to provide food for 850,000 people in Syria.

The agency says it has only 20 percent of the $189 million it needs, and that it hopes a conference Monday in Geneva will bring more donors.

Meanwhile, U.N. envoy Kofi Annan is going to Moscow Monday for two days of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The U.N. Security Council is considering tough new sanctions on Syria as a deadline looms for renewing its observer mission in the country. But Russia has threatened to once again veto any sanctions, saying it wants only to extend the observer mandate for three months.

Syria is denying that government forces used heavy weapons and aircraft against the village of Tremseh last Thursday, despite the findings of the U.N. monitors who visited the area Saturday and Sunday.

A Syrian foreign ministry spokesman says the military operation in the village targeted armed fighters. He said 39 people were killed, and all but two of them armed.

Syrian activists said more than 200 people were killed during a massacre by government forces.

The spokeswoman for U.N. monitors in Syria, Sausan Ghosheh, said the government attacks in Tremseh appeared to target the homes of activists and army defectors. She said a wide range of weapons was used including artillery, mortars and small arms.