Middle East

Syria 'fires Scud-type missiles at rebels'

Syrian rebels in northern Syria, 21 Nov
Image caption The US government has confirmed missiles were fired at rebels but has not commented on the type

Forces loyal to the Syrian government have fired "Scud-type missiles" at rebels, media have quoted US officials as saying.

A number of short-range, unguided ballistic missiles had been launched, US and Nato officials said.

The US state department would not confirm the type but said missiles had been deployed. It said Syria was resorting to "more vicious weapons".

Separately, a series of blasts has hit the Syrian capital Damascus.

'Napalm-like bomb'

A US official quoted by Reuters and Associated Press confirmed the use of Scud-type missiles.

AP quoted the official as saying that more than half a dozen missiles were fired from the Damascus area into northern Syria. There was no indication any chemical weapons had been used, the official said.

Reuters also quoted a Nato official in Brussels as saying: "Allied intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets have detected the launch of a number of unguided, short-range ballistic missiles inside Syria this week. The trajectory and distance travelled indicate they were Scud-type missiles."

US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said she was not going to comment on "the intelligence of precise missiles" but confirmed that "in recent days we have seen missiles deployed".

She added that the US had also seen a "napalm-like" bomb that was "completely indiscriminate".

Ms Nuland said: "As the regime becomes more and more desperate, we see it resorting to increased lethality and more vicious weapons moving forward."

White House spokesman Jay Carney said if the Scud reports were true "this would be the latest desperate act from a regime that has shown utter disregard for innocent life, utter disregard for the lives of its own citizens".

Mr Carney highlighted President Barack Obama's announcement on Tuesday recognising the Syrian opposition coalition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

"We are working with our international partners to help strengthen the opposition and to further isolate and sanction the Assad regime," Mr Carney said.

On Wednesday a meeting of more than 100 nations in Morocco - the Friends of Syria - also agreed to recognise the opposition National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Force as the sole representative of the Syrian people.

Image caption The Scud gained notoriety in the 1991 Gulf War

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the recognition would open the way for greater humanitarian assistance and possibly military aid for the forces seeking the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad.

The UK, France, Turkey and Gulf states had already given their recognition to the group.

Deir Ezzor plea

Violent opposition to Mr Assad's rule continued in Syria on Wednesday.

The building of the Syrian interior ministry in the capital Damascus was targeted by three explosions, state TV said, one a car bomb.

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Media captionSyrian state television footage believed to show the damaged interior ministry

There had been "a number of deaths and injuries" and damage to the building, the report said.

The interior ministry is in the Kafar Souseh district, an area on the south-western outskirts of the capital where fighting has previously been reported between government forces and rebels.

Earlier on Wednesday, one person was killed and several were injured in two car bombs near the justice ministry in the suburb of Jaramana, according to state-run news agency Sana.

Fighting in Damascus's southern suburbs has intensified in recent weeks as rebels try to close in on the capital.

Also on Wednesday, medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said tens of thousands of people, many of them wounded, were trapped in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor due to intense fighting and aerial bombardments.

The charity has made what it called an "unprecedented" appeal for the sick and wounded to be evacuated to safer locations and for international medical teams to be given official authorisation to provide assistance.