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Syrian government forces fire Scud missiles at insurgents in north of the country in escalation of two-year conflictPresident Bashar Assad's forces fire six missiles at rebel forcesFirst time missiles have been used in bloody conflict
New Syrian coalition opposition approved by more than 100 nations

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UPDATED:

00:53 GMT, 13 December 2012

The Syrian government has escalated hostilities with rebel forces after firing more than six scud missiles.

The attacks are thought to have been the first time President Bashar Assad's military has used missiles to attack insurgents during the two-year conflict.

US officials said Assad's troops fired several missiles over the last few days, suggesting that the embattled president's forces are attempting new ways to stop opposition fighters.

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Damaged buildings are seen in the Karam Shamsham area in Homs

Ruin: Syrian forces have fired missiles at rebel troops in northern Syria. The move is thought to be the first time Bashar Assad's troops have used missiles. Areas of the country, such as Homs, pictured, have been left in ruin by the violence

The use of scud missiles is said to be an escalation of violence in the country. An official opposition coalition was today recognised officially by more than 100 nations

Escalation: The use of scud missiles is said to be an escalation of violence in the country. An official opposition coalition was today officially recognised by a group of more than 100 nations. A dilapidated area of Homs, pictured

The missiles were fired from the city of Damascus towards northern Syria.

The revelation comes on the same day
that more than 100 countries recognized a
new Syrian opposition coalition.

The political move will further alienate Assad's
regime and will allow more humanitarian assistance to be given to the
forces battling to oust him.

The bloody battle in Syria has already resulted in 40,000 deaths and the conflict has threatened political stability in the Middle East.

The US official who revealed the missile use said there was no indication
that chemical weapons were aboard the missiles.

There had been fears
over the past week that rebel advances were prompting Assad
to consider using chemical weapons.

The official said that more than six missiles had been fired so far – believed to be scud missiles.

Scuds are most often used as a defensive weapon and were often employed by Saddam Hussein's forces during the Persian Gulf War.

A Syrian rebel fighter runs to cross a road being covered by a government sniper in Aleppo

Running for cover: A Syrian rebel fighter runs to cross a road being covered by a government sniper in Aleppo

Officials expressed fears that missiles could be aimed at bordering Turkey due to hostilities between the two states.

State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland confirmed Assad has fired missiles, but would not specify what kind.

'As the regime becomes more and more desperate, we see it resorting to increased lethality and more vicious weapons moving forward and we have in recent days seen missiles deployed,' she said.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said he could not confirm reports but said if true it would be a sign of desperation.

'The idea that the Syrian regime would launch missiles, within its borders, at its own people, is stunning, desperate and a completely disproportionate military escalation,' Carney said.

The new development happened as officials planned an international conference to further assist opposition to Assad.

'This is the usual pattern of behavior that whenever there is an important decision that is anti-Assad taken by the international community, the Assad regime escalates the degree of violence to show its degree of displeasure,” said Murhaf Jouejati, a specialist on Syrian affairs at the National Defense University.

Soldiers from the Free Syrian Army fighters take positions beside a military base near Azaz

Conflict: Soldiers from the Free Syrian Army fighters take positions beside a military base near Azaz

VIDEO: Victoria Nuland: Syrian regime “more and more desperate”

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