Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are firing Scud missiles at rebels, according to information from Obama administration officials on Wednesday.
The move by forces loyal to Assad represents another significant escalation in the fighting between them and rebels, which has lasted almost two years and claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people, reports The New York Times.
The fighting has threatened several times to destabilize the region. The announcement that Assad’s forces are using Scud missiles could suggest an increased sense of desperation on the side of the country’s president.
The country’s capital of Damascus has also seen an increase in fighting in the past few days. A triple bombing took place outside the Interior Ministry on Wednesday. One American official stated that the Scud missiles have been fired from the area around Damascus into northern Syria.
Scud missiles are essentially hand-me-down ballistic missiles that Russia first designed during the Cold War. They are very inaccurate and, therefore, their use in Syria as a short-range ballistic missile fired towards a high-population area has the potential to injure and kill more civilians than rebel fighters.
The Washington Post notes that details are scarce on where the Syrian-fired scud missiles landed, along with whether they caused any casualties. The missiles’ use was confirmed by senior officials, though White House spokesman Jay Carney would not confirm the report. Carney stated:
“If true, this would be the last desperate act of a regime that has shown utter disregard for innocent life, utter disregard for the lives of its own citizens.”
The use of Scuds, according to Carney, would be a disproportionate military escalation, as well as “another indication of the depravity of Assad and his cronies.”
The revelation that Syria is using Scud missiles against rebel troops comes just one day after President Obama officially recognized a newly formed Syrian opposition group as Syria’s legitimate leader of the Syrian people. The move is one that the Obama administration hopes will speed up the downfall of Assad’s government and the formation of an alternative one.