US intelligence believes that Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar Assad have fired Scud missiles at rebel fighters, the New York Times reported Wednesday.
Earlier Wednesday, Human Rights Watch said that Syrian forces have dropped incendiary bombs on populated areas outside Damascus.
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The report, citing top white house officials, pegged the use of the short-range, surface-to-surface missiles as an escalation in the fighting, which has already killed more than 40,000 civilians and displaced over 500,000 since it erupted in March 2011.
One top official told the NYT that Assad used Scuds to strike rebel bases in northern Syria in at least six occasions.
It is unknown at this time how many casualties were claimed by the Scud attacks.
US intelligence agencies have been following the developments in Syria closely, as concerns that the desperate president may choose to use nonconventional weapons on his own people, grow.
Syria has the world's largest arsenal of chemical weapons.
"The Obama administration views the Assad use of Scud missiles as a significant escalation of the conflict," the paper quoted a senior DC official as saying.
"It also shows the increasing desperation of Mr. Assad, since Scuds are primarily defensive weapons, being used by the government offensively against a counterinsurgency.
"Using Scuds to target tanks or military bases is one thing. Using them to target rebels hiding in playgrounds at schools is something else," the official said.
This development comea as representatives of more than 100 countries and organizations supporting the anti-Assad movement met in Morocco Tuesday and endorsed a newly formed opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
President Obama formally acknowledged that coalition, known as the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, in an interview on Tuesday with ABC.
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