The white flag was an internationally recognized protective sign of truce or ceasefire, and request for negotiation, prior to skydark. It was also used to symbolize surrender, since it is often the weaker party which requests negotiation. A white flag signifie to all that an approaching negotiator is unarmed, with an intent to surrender or a desire to communicate. Persons carrying or waving a white flag were not to be fired upon, nor are they allowed to open fire.
The improper use of a white flag is forbidden by the rules of war and constitutes a war crime of perfidy. There have been numerous reported cases of such behaviour in conflicts, such as combatants using white flags as a ruse to approach and attack enemy combatants, or killings of combatants attempting to surrender by carrying white flags.