This video image taken from amateur video and broadcast by Bambuser/Homslive shows a series of devastating explosions rocking the central Syrian city of Homs, Syria, Monday, June 11, 2012. Live streaming video caught the devastation during one of the heaviest examples of violence since the uprisings began over a year ago. (Photo/Bambuser/Homslive via AP video)
UNITED NATIONS/BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria's 15-month uprising has grown into a full-scale civil war where President Bashar al-Assad's forces are trying to recapture swathes of urban territory lost to rebels, the U.N. peacekeeping chief said on Tuesday.
"Yes, I think we can say that," U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous said when asked if the Syrian crisis could now be characterized as a civil war.
"Clearly what is happening is that the government of Syria lost some large chunks of territory in several cities to the opposition and wants to retake control of these areas," he said.
His remarks, the first time a senior U.N. official has declared Syria's conflict is a civil war, came as the United States said Russia could be sending attack helicopters to Syria.
The International Red Cross said the situation was deteriorating in several parts of Syria simultaneously as fighting intensifies.
Many hundreds of people, including civilians, rebels and members of Assad's army and security forces, have been killed since a ceasefire deal brokered by international mediator Kofi Annan two months ago was supposed to halt the bloodshed.
"Now we have confirmed reports of not only of the use of tanks and artillery but also attack helicopters," Ladsous said in an interview with Reuters and one other reporter. "This is really becoming large scale."
Demonstrators hold an illustration depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin, with Russia's national flag and the Syrian opposition flag, during a against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Kafranbel, near Idlib June 12, 2012. U.S. and European officials have said the escalation of the conflict in Syria occurred because Russia used its U.N. Security Council veto to prevent the 15-nation body from imposing sanctions on Damascus to force it to halt its assault on an uprising that began as a peaceful pro-democracy movement. Russia is a staunch ally of Syria, which remains one of the top purchasers of Russian weapons. (Reuters Pictures)