The United States says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is using scud missiles against rebel forces in a bid to stamp out 20 months of unrest in the war-ravaged country, according to The New York Times.
Scuds are ballistic missiles first used by the Soviets during the Cold War. They are extremely deadly and can carry warheads.
The US warning comes amid growing concern Assad will resort to extreme measures — such as chemical weapons — in the face of a stubborn armed rebellion.
One US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told NYT the "total is number is probably north of six now,” adding that the regime was targeting rebel-held areas.
Another senior official told NYT the Obama administration sees their use as a “significant escalation” in the conflict.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland declined to comment on "the intelligence of precise missiles" today, but she did say "we have seen missiles deployed" in Syria in recent days, according to BBC News.
A NATO source in Brussels supported the claims in comments to Reuters today.
"Allied intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets have detected the launch of a number of unguided, short-range ballistic missiles inside Syria this week," the unidentified official said. "The trajectory and distance travelled indicate they were Scud-type missiles."
The news comes on the heels of an international "Friends of Syria" meeting in Morocco that formally recognized the newly-formed Syrian opposition group. On Tuesday, the US officially recognized the opposition as
Though the US has so far said it will not arm the opposition, an NPR report published Wednesday claimed that "Jordanian authorities, along with their US and British counterparts, have organized training for Syrian rebels on sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons." NPR cited several Syrian sources for the information.
International efforts to help resolve the crisis in Syria, where fighting has taken over 40,000 lives, have not been successful.
On Wednesday, several bombs were reportedly detonated outside the Ministry of Interior in Damascus. Details on damage, casualties or those responsible have yet to emerge.