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."
BEFORE YOU GO
09/09/2012 12:25 PM EDT
Syria Blasts Aleppo By Air
09/05/2012 7:50 AM EDT
Syrian City In Flames
08/25/2012 1:45 PM EDT
Lebanese Pilgrim Freed
Hussein Ali Omar, 60, one of 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims that Syrian rebels have been holding for three months in Syria, hugs his mother, right, upon arrival at his house in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, 2012. Syrian rebels freed Omar on Saturday in a move aimed at easing cross-border tensions after a wave of abductions of Syrian citizens in Lebanon. The Shiite pilgrims were abducted May 22 after crossing into Syria from Turkey on their way to Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
08/24/2012 12:22 PM EDT
This image made from video and released by Shaam News Network and accessed Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, purports to show the funeral of children in Daraya, near Damascus, Syria. Syrian troops backed by tanks and helicopters broke into a Damascus suburb on Thursday following two days of shelling and intense clashes as part of a widening offensive by President Bashar Assad's forces to seize control of parts of the capital and surrounding areas from rebel fighters, activists said. At least 15 people were killed in the offensive on Daraya, only a few miles (kilometers) southwest of Damascus. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network SNN via AP video)
08/24/2012 11:05 AM EDT
Lebanon Sees Heaviest Clashes In Months
Clashes between Assad supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime killed two people in Lebanon on Friday, the Associated Press reports. 17 people were injured.
The AP gives more context:
Syria was in virtual control of its smaller neighbor for many years, posting tens of thousands of troops in Lebanon, before withdrawing under pressure in 2005. Even without soldiers on the ground, Syria remains influential, and its civil war has stirred longstanding tensions that have lain under Lebanon's surface.
Read more on HuffPost World.
08/24/2012 11:02 AM EDT
A Sunni gunman fires a gun during clashes that erupted between pro and anti-Syrian regime gunmen in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Friday, Aug. 24, 2012. The latest round of fighting first erupted on Monday in northern Lebanon and at least 15 have been killed in Tripoli this week and more than 100 have been wounded in fighting that is a spillover from Syria's civil war. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
08/24/2012 11:00 AM EDT
Refugee Numbers Soar
@ KenRoth :
UN reports 200,000 #Syria refugees, 30,000 in past week alone. Many more internally displaced not counted. http://t.co/BaM6u59j
08/23/2012 2:00 PM EDT
Syrian boy Musataf Alhafiz, 11, who fled his home with his family due to fighting between the Syrian army and the rebels, carries his brother Saif, 9 months, while he and others take refuge at the Bab Al-Salameh border crossing, in hopes of entering one of the refugee camps in Turkey, near the Syrian town of Azaz, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. Thousands of Syrians who have been displaced by the country's civil war are struggling to find safe shelter while shelling and airstrikes by government forces continue. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
08/23/2012 12:09 PM EDT
Heaviest Bombardment This Month
Helicopter gunships shelled Damascus on Wednesday as Syrian security forces intensified their assault on the capital. Activists report that at least 47 people were killed.
"The whole of Damascus is shaking with the sound of shelling," a woman in the neighborhood of Kfar Souseh told Reuters.
Read more on HuffPost World.