Syria's regime has fired Scud missiles on its own people for the
first time in a sign of its increasing "desperation” to crush the rebellion. In
a significant escalation, Western officials said forces loyal to the regime had
fired at least six of the Russian-designed ballistic missiles on rebel targets.
It means that President Bashar al-Assad has now used every weapon in his
arsenal, short of a chemical attack, in an attempt to end the 21-month
Foreign Office spokesman said reports indicated that the first Scud was
launched on Monday and that more had been fired since. the spokesman said:
trajectory and distance travelled suggest these were Scud-type missiles,”. He
added that "We condemn this in the strongest possible terms. It demonstrates
the appalling brutality of the regime and its desperation to go to any lengths
to deny his people their legitimate aspiration.”
confirmed Wednesday night that surveillance had detected the launch of a number
of missiles in Syria this week. The Nato official said that "Allied
intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets have detected the launch
of a number of unguided, short-range ballistic missiles inside Syria this week.
Trajectory and distance travelled indicate they were Scud-type missiles,”.
missiles are medium-range weapons and notoriously inaccurate. Muammar Gaddafi,
the Libyan dictator, used a Scud missile against rebels in Benghazi last year.
significant use in warfare was by Saddam Hussein in the Gulf conflict of 1991,
including an attack on Tel Aviv.
Explanations for the deployment of the weapons varied from "ranging
shots” for future chemical weapons attacks, to targeted acts of terror to quell
the advancing insurgency. "The most likely explanation is that it indicates the
diminishing capability of the regime’s air force to hit rebel areas, either
because they are running out of pilots or the rebel air defences are doing too
much damage,” said Benjamin Barry, a weapons expert at the International Institute
of Strategic Studies, a London think tank.
officials have warned the Syrian regime that a chemical weapons attack could
provoke military intervention to remove Mr Assad.
believed that Syria had at least 48 Scud missiles at the outset of the crisis,
meaning more than 10 per cent of its entire arsenal has now been used.
"The total [fired] is probably north of six
now,” a US official told the New York Times.
targets were in areas controlled by the Free Syrian Army, the main armed
insurgent group. Adam Holloway, a Conservative MP, said the attacks were a
demonstration that the regime was cornered. "Assad must be getting desperate,”
he said. "He put himself on a par with Saddam Hussein and, given the losses
he’s suffered, it makes you think there is nothing he wouldn’t do.”
news emerged as 114 countries held a summit in Morocco on Wednesday to
recognise the Syrian Opposition Coalition as the legitimate representative of
the Syrian people, a move that could pave the way for arming the rebels. The
coalition won the recognition of more than 100 countries.
at the meeting, William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, demanded greater
"practical” support for the Syrian opposition. He said Britain still wanted to
see a negotiated transition of power from Mr Assad but for the first time
declared that the UK would not limit the scope of its efforts to ensure Syrians
were defended from government attack.
reports indicating that the regime was prepared to use chemical weapons would
provoke a tough response, he indicated: "We do not rule out any option to save
lives. The Assad regime should not doubt our resolve, or miscalculate how we
would react to any use of chemical or biological weapons against the Syrian
people,” . He also said:
next few months will determine whether a peaceful political transition can be
agreed, or if Syria is to face more bloodshed.”
said British aid was being stepped up to provide equipment to sustain
opposition areas, including communications equipment, electricity generator and
water purification systems.
Technical experts from a stabilisation team had
been deployed to nearby countries.
Fabius, the French foreign minister, said the opposition would need to build a
military framework to safeguard against the rise of extremists linked to
al-Qaeda before it was granted military aid.
final communiqué, more than 100 countries recognised a new Syrian opposition
coalition, opening the way for greater humanitarian assistance to the forces
fighting Bashar Assad and possibly even military aid, Mr Fabius said.
has called for opposition allies to provide surface-to-air missiles to rebels
to stop aerial attacks by the regime.
Casualties were reported on Wednesday night at the Syrian ministry of
interior after a series of car bombs exploded at the entrance to its building
Two separate explosions were also heard in the
capital on Wednesday as a rebel advance moved towards the heart of the regime