Syria in civil war: Red Cross
The Red Cross (ICRC) yesterday said the fighting in Syria has become so widespread that the conflict is now in effect a civil war.
The change in status means combatants will now be officially subject to the Geneva Conventions, leaving them more exposed to war crimes prosecutions.
The Red Cross had previously regarded only the areas around Idlib, Homs and Hama as war zones.
Meanwhile, Syrian officials are disputing claims that they used heavy weapons in fighting on Thursday.
Speaking at a news conference in Damascus, foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said Syrian government forces did not use helicopters and tanks in Thursday's assault on Treimsa.
Activists initially described fighting in the village of Tremseh near Hama as a massacre of dozens of civilians, but later accounts suggested most of the dead were armed rebels.
The UN accused Syrian forces of using heavy artillery, tanks and helicopters, but Damascus denied those allegations and said just two civilians had been killed.
The accusations, if proved, would mean Damascus had broken an agreement it made with envoy Kofi Annan.
Later yesterday, video footage emerged purporting to show heavy fighting in southern Damascus.
Activists claimed the fighting was the most intense seen in the capital since the start of anti-government protests in March last year.
They said tanks and mortars were used, and in some areas residents were fleeing.
There has been no independent confirmation of their claims.
On the diplomatic front, UN-Arab peace envoy Kofi Annan and UN chief Ban Ki-moon head for Russia and China today to press the two UN Security Council doubters to back tougher action against President Bashar al-Assad to halt the slaughter in Syria.
The visits by the UN leaders come at a crucial new stage in the conflict. The Security Council has until Friday to renew the UN mission in Syria but is divided over Western calls to add sanctions.
On the ground, troops bombarded rebel areas in several parts of Syria as violence killed at least 55 people yesterday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, which oversees the Geneva Conventions, said fighting had now spread beyond the three hotspots of Idlib, Homs and Hama.
Spokesman Hicham Hassan said Syria was now regards as a "non-international armed conflict", which is the technical term for civil war.
The BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva says the statement is significant because it is the Red Cross' job to monitor the conduct of the fighting, and to tell warring parties what their obligations are.
Under the Geneva Conventions, indiscriminate attacks on civilians, attacks on medical personnel or the destruction of basic services like water or electricity are forbidden and can be prosecuted as war crimes.
From now on, all those fighting in Syria are officially subject to the laws of war, and could end up at a war crimes tribunal if they disobey them.