Syria firing Scud-type rockets at opposition, NATO head says
Patriot missle batteries being sent to Turkey
The Syrian military has continued to fire Scud-type missiles against anti-government forces, NATO's top official said Friday, describing the move as an act of desperation of a regime nearing its end.
Although none of the Syrian rockets hit Turkish territory, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmusen said the use of the medium-range ballistic rockets showed that NATO was justified in deploying six batteries of Patriot anti-missile systems in neighbouring Turkey.
The United States, Germany and the Netherlands will each provide two batteries of the U.S.-built air defence systems to Turkey. More than 1,000 American, German and Dutch troops will man the batteries, likely from sites well inland in Turkey.
Syria's use of missiles are "acts of a desperate regime approaching collapse," Fogh Rasmussen said.
A week ago, U.S. and NATO officials said the Syrians had used the ground-to-ground rockets for the first time in the nearly two-year conflict. Damascus immediately denied the claims.
Syria is reported to have an array of artillery rockets, as well as medium-range missiles — some capable of carrying chemical warheads. These include Soviet-built SS-21 Scarabs and Scud-B missiles, originally designed to deliver nuclear warheads.
On Thursday, NATO's supreme commander U.S. Admiral James Stavridis said the batteries will be shipped to Turkey within the next few days. He said he expected them to achieve initial operational capability next month.