US doubles nonlethal aid to Syrian rebels

Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday announced that the U.S. will provide $123 million to Syria's rebels in additional nonlethal aid that may include armor for the first time.

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Kerry made the announcement in Istanbul, Turkey, where he is meeting with Syrian Coalition officials and foreign ministers who back the opposition.

The new aid doubles nonlethal assistance to the rebels, according to the State Department.

The State Department said U.S. officials will work with opposition representatives to determine how best to use the new assistance “to meet the needs of the Syrian people and lead the way to a political transition that will bring an end to this conflict, and build the inclusive, democratic Syria that its people deserve.”

The new support will go beyond military food rations and medical kits to include other types of non-lethal supplies, the department said.

Kerry also announced nearly $25 million in additional food assistance.

Kerry said the situation in Syria is at a critical moment and that the bloodshed needs to stop, the AP reported.

Kerry also announced that an agreement had been reached to channel future aid through the rebels' supreme military command, according to Reuters.

Earlier this week, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said President Obama was preparing to ramp up U.S. military pressure in Syria in an attempt to bring the ongoing civil war in the country to an end.

The White House could create a no-fly zone along the Turkish or Jordanian border or additional deployments of Patriot missile systems in those countries.

"Something is happening, something is going on," Levin said after Wednesday's Senate hearing on the situation in Syria.

While Obama has not officially requested any recommendations for U.S. military action in Syria, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel "had a long conversation with the president" on the issue at the White House on Tuesday, according to Levin, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Defense Department did not comment on possible future actions in Syria and neighboring countries.

--This report was updated at 7:22 p.m.