WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. officials say President Barack Obama has authorized sending weapons to Syrian rebels for the first time.
The White House disclosed Thursday that the United States has conclusive evidence President Bashar Assad's government used chemical weapons against opposition forces trying to overthrow him.
Obama has repeatedly said the use of chemical weapons would cross a "red line" triggering greater American intervention in the two-year crisis.
Sen. John McCain, says was told Thursday that Obama had decided to "provide arms to the rebels." Three U.S. officials confirmed the decision, but cautioned that no decisions have been made on the specific type of weaponry or when it would be sent. Syria's rebels are under increasing assault from Assad's better-armed forces.
Still, the White House signaled that Obama does plan to step up U.S. involvement in response to the chemical weapons disclosure. Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes says the aid will be "different in both scope and scale" that aid to date. The U.S. has been providing the Syrian rebel army with rations and medical supplies.