Syria's military late last month was detected to have launched against opposition forces a minimum of two tactical ballistic missiles that are thought to have been supplied by Iran, two anonymous U.S. armed forces officials informed CNN.
The Bashar Assad regime earlier in December was thought to have launched multiple Scud ballistic missiles against rebel forces. The Fateh A-110 high-altitude missiles understood to have been fired in recent days have a maximum range of 125, compared to the Scud's 185-mile top flight distance, but they are more accurate.
U.S. military sources said they think the Assad government is launching high-altitude missiles to protect its air power following a number of recent successful attacks on regime aircraft by armed opposition elements.
NATO could not verify the reports of tactical high-altitude missile firings by Damascus last week. The military bloc did spot the use of missiles that fit the description in Syria earlier in December.
"The fact that Scud-type missiles were used in Syria emphasizes the need for effective defense protection of our ally Turkey," an unidentified NATO official said to CNN. "This is why, earlier this month, NATO allies decided to deploy Patriot missiles in Turkey to augment Turkey's air defenses."
The Patriot systems -- to be supplied by Germany, the Netherlands and the United States -- are anticipated to go online sometime this month. Brussels maintains their deployment on Turkish territory close to Syria is for defensive purposes only.