WASHINGTON, Aug 13 (Reuters) - The Pentagon on Monday deplored what it saw as an increasing use of air power by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government against rebels, but stopped short of suggesting a move toward any additional steps like a no-fly zone.
The comments came just days after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States and Turkey were looking at all measures to help Syrian rebels overthrow Assad, including establishing a no-fly zone.
Asked about the use of Syrian air power at a briefing with reporters, Pentagon spokesman George Little said: "We've seen a very troubling and despicable uptick in attacks from the air, perpetrated by the Syrian regime."
"This is yet another example of their depraved behavior. This needs to stop as does the violence they continue to pursue against their own people," Little said.
Little did not comment on the possibility of establishing a no-fly zone, which would use the threat of force to stop Syrian warplanes from operating over all or part of Syria's territory.
While the Pentagon has done basic contingency planning on a range of options in Syria, putting in place a no-fly zone - even if the allies agree to do so - could take weeks or months.
The imposition of no-fly zones by foreign powers was crucial in helping Libyan rebels overthrow Muammar Gaddafi last year, but it required NATO attacks to destroy Libyan air defenses.
In March testimony to Congress, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned of potential "severe collateral damage" in establishing a no-fly zone because Syria's air defense systems, which are far more sophisticated than Libya's, were located in populated areas.
At the same hearing, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that Syria had far more sophisticated air defense systems than existed in Libya.
A small but vocal group of U.S. senators has called on President Barack Obama to take steps such as arming the Syrian rebels and imposing a no-fly zone.
"The United States should work with our allies to defend the de facto safe zones the rebels have already established in northern Syria," Senator Joseph Lieberman said on Monday.
"Since Bashar al - Assad is now increasingly using helicopters and fighter aircraft to attack these areas, it makes sense for us to put in place a no-fly zone to help defend them - something, as in Libya, that would not require putting any American boots on the ground," he told Reuters.
Monday's Pentagon comments came the same day rebels in eastern Syria said they had captured the pilot of a government fighter jet after shooting down his aircraft - a rare event for the lightly armed rebels battling Assad's superior weaponry.
The state news channel Syria TV said the plane crashed due to technical problems during a "regular training mission."