The Red Cross determination means the laws of war and of humanitarian law now apply to the conflict, which gives all parties involved rules that they are expected to follow.
“We are now talking about a non-international armed conflict in the country,” ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan said.
The laws of war have a set of rules that have been determined by many international treaties over the years. These laws include:
Wars should be limited to achieving the political goals that started the war (e.g., territorial control) and should not include unnecessary destruction.
Wars should be brought to an end as quickly as possible.
People and property that do not contribute to the war effort should be protected against unnecessary destruction and hardship.
There is also protection for Red Cross and aide workers. Persons protected by the Red Cross/Crescent or white flag are expected to maintain neutrality, and may not engage in warlike acts; in fact, engaging in war activities under a protected symbol is itself a violation of the laws of war.
Violation of these laws can subject the violators to conviction of International War Crimes, which can be punished by substantial prison sentences or even death.
Previously, the ICRC had restricted its assessment of the scope of the conflict to the hotspots of Idlib, Homs and Hama, but Hassan said the organization had determined the violence has spread beyond those areas.
“Hostilities have spread to other areas of the country,” Hassan told The Associated Press. “International humanitarian law applies to all areas where hostilities are taking place.”