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ARMISTICE (from Lat. arma, arms, and sistere, to stop), a suspension of hostilities by mutual agreement between two nations at war, or their respective forces. An armistice may be either general or particular; in the first case there is a complete cessation of hostile operations in every part of the dominions of the belligerent powers; in the second there is merely a temporary truce between two contending armies, or between a besieged fortress and the force besieging it. Such a temporary truce, when for a very limited period and for a special purpose, e.g. the collection of the wounded and the burial of the dead, is termed a suspension of arms. A general armistice cannot be concluded by the commanders-in-chief unless special authority has been previously delegated to them by their respective governments; otherwise any arrangement entered into by them requires subsequent ratification by the supreme powers of the states. A partial truce may be concluded by the officers of the respective powers, without any special authority from their governments, wherever, from the nature and extent of the commands they exercise, their duties could not be efficiently discharged without their possession of such a power. The conduct of belligerent parties during an armistice is usually regulated in modern warfare by express agreement between the parties, but where this is not the case the following general conditions may be laid down. (1) Each party may do, within the limits prescribed by the truce, whatever he could have done in time of peace. For example, he can raise troops, collect stores, receive reinforcements and fortify places that are not actually in a state of siege. (2) Neither party can take advantage of the armistice to do what he could not have done had military operations continued. Thus he cannot throw provisions or reinforcements into a besieged town, and neither besiegers nor besieged are at liberty to repair their fortifications or erect new works. (3) All things contained in places the possession of which was contested, must remain in the state in which they were before the armistice began. Any infringement by either party of the conditions of the truce entitles the other to recommence hostile operations without previous intimation.
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