Early on October 19, Twitter messages from Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte reported the presence of white flags across the devastated town. Flags were reported at multiple locations in the town, leaving some to believe the rebels were surrendering.
The use of white flags to signal surrender is an ancient tradition going back to the Eastern Han dynasty in China and the Roman Empire. Violating the widely accept convention is considered an act of extreme treachery.
Under both the Geneva and Hague protocols of international humanitarian law, it is forbidden to kill or injure persons hors de combat (outside of combat) and doing so constitutes a major war crime.