Syria conflict declared civil war
Jul 15 2012
Syria's 16-month bloodbath has crossed an important symbolic threshold as the International Red Cross formally declared the conflict a civil war, a status with implications for potential war crimes prosecutions.
The Red Cross statement came as United Nations observers gathered new details on what happened in a village where dozens were reported killed in a regime assault. After a second visit to Tremseh on Sunday, the team said Syrian troops went door-to-door in the small farming community, checking residents' IDs and then killing some and taking others away.
According to the UN, the attack appeared to target army defectors and activists. A UN statement said "pools of blood" were observed in a number of homes.
Syria denied UN claims that government forces had used heavy weapons such as tanks, artillery and helicopters during the attack on Thursday. Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said the violence was not a massacre - as activists and many foreign leaders have alleged - but a military operation targeting armed fighters who had taken control of the village.
"What happened wasn't an attack on civilians," he told reporters in Damascus. He said 37 gunmen and two civilians were killed - a far lower death toll than the one put forward by anti-regime activists, some of whom estimated the dead at more than 100. He added: "What has been said about the use of heavy weapons is baseless."
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