By Carlo Muñoz - 06/18/12 07:28 PM EDT
CIA operatives and their counterparts in MI6, the United Kingdom's foreign-intelligence wing, have been gathering reams of raw intelligence gleaned from American and British satellites and other electronic intelligence assets in the skies above Syria, according to reports in the U.K's Daily Star.
That information includes images of troop movements of forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as well as captured communications between top Syrian military officials in Damascus to commanders in the field, a British defense source told the Star.
That information has allowed rebel leaders to evacuate areas targeted by Assad's troops and possibly plan counterstrikes against offensives by government forces.
One such attack in May by Assad forces in the village of Houla, north of the rebel stronghold of Homs, ended with the slaughter more than 100 Syrian civilians.
The CIA and the White House have declined to comment on the ongoing intelligence operation in Syria. Administration officials say they remain committed to finding a diplomatic solution to removing Assad from power.
The State Department had been providing non-lethal support to the Syrian rebels since May, including communication equipment and night-vision goggles.
News of American and British intelligence support to Syrian rebels comes days after the United Nations pulled its observers from the country, citing the escalating violence between Assad forces and anti-government rebels.
The observers were tasked with ensuring that government forces were complying with mandates of a cease-fire brokered by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan in April.
However, chief monitor Maj. Gen. Robert Mood said on Saturday the escalating violence in Syria has put U.N. officials in increasing danger and prevented them from carrying out their mission.
International observers have come under fire since arriving in the country. In May, a U.N. convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device while traveling through the town of Khan-Sheikhoun in northern Syria.