The US and several Arab allies have launched the first strikes against Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria. The Pentagon said fighter and bomber jets and Tomahawk missiles were used in the attacks, which targeted several areas including IS stronghold Raqqa. Syria’s foreign ministry said its UN envoy was informed about the strikes against IS, who control large swathes of Syria and Iraq. The US has already launched about 190 air strikes in Iraq since August. However, Monday’s action expands the campaign against the militant group across the border into Syria. Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm John Kirby confirmed the strikes, saying “US military and partner nation forces” were undertaking military action in Syria – but did not give details.”Given that these operations are ongoing, we are not in a position to provide additional details at this time,” he said in a statement. The Syrian government has not formally consented to the air strikes on its territory. However, it says it was informed before they took place.
Barack Obama told the American people nearly two weeks ago there would be no safe havens for those who threaten America. He said he wouldn’t hesitate to take action against Islamic State, whether they be in Iraq or Syria. And so it has proved.
Military planners went to work – identifying targets in Syria and assessing the threat that Syrian air defences might pose to US and other aircraft, while Secretary of State John Kerry toured the region maximising political and military support from other Arab nations.
That they have participated in this action is highly significant. But this is only a first step. The Pentagon acknowledges that air power alone will not defeat Islamic State, and crucial to that goal will be equipping and training the free Syrian Army.
In the coming hours and days we will learn which countries have participated and what targets have been hit. What we can say is that the campaign against Islamic State has now begun in earnest.Reports indicate many of the strikes hit Raqqa province, an IS stronghold in eastern Syria the group captured in 2013.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists on the ground, said more than 20 militants were killed in two strikes on IS positions in Raqqa.
‘Bombing without consent’
The US confirmed that Sunni Arab countries Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates “participated in or supported” the US-led air strikes.
Jordan said its “air force jets destroyed a number of targets that belong to some terrorist groups that sought to commit terror acts inside Jordan.”
Analysts say it is significant that countries with a Sunni majority, such as Saudi Arabia, appear to be among those supporting US efforts against IS.
IS members are jihadists who adhere to an extreme interpretation of Sunni Islam and consider themselves the only true believers.The BBC’s Barbara Plett Usher in Washington DC says the strikes in Syria differ from those in Iraq: while the government of Iraq invited US intervention against the IS militants, the Syrian government has not done so.
That puts the US in the position of bombing an Arab country without its consent, our correspondent reports.
Syria’s foreign ministry said in a statement that its UN envoy was informed about the strikes.
The US and allies including the UK have ruled out co-operating against IS with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, whom they accuse of responsibility for huge numbers of civilian deaths during Syria’s civil war.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said last month that any US action would be “considered aggression” unless it was co-ordinated with Syria.
Hadi al-Bahra, president of the National Coalition, Syria’s main opposition alliance, welcomed the military action but said “strikes alone cannot defeat extremism for good.”
“The long-term solution is moderate, inclusive Syrian governance that prevents the resurgence of extremism,” he said in a statement.
Islamic State – also known as Isis, or Isil – has taken control of large areas of Syria and Iraq, imposed a harsh brand of Islam, and declared a caliphate.
The group, which the CIA says could have as many as 31,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria, has executed captive soldiers, aid workers and journalists, and threatened the mass killing of Iraqi religious minorities.
The IS advance in northern Syria has created a refugee crisis in neighbouring Turkey, with about 130,000 Kurdish refugees crossing the border at the weekend.
Most refugees are from Kobane, a Syrian town close to the Turkish border that is under siege by IS militants.
Before the latest influx, there were already more than one million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
SOURCE : http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29321136