Britain bombs ISIL(?) targets in Syria
The United Kingdom has reportedly carried out its first bombing of Daesh (ISIL) positions in Syria after the government won a parliamentary debate on an air campaign against the Takfiri militant group there.
British government sources said on Thursday that the UK conducted its first airstrikes in Syria, Reuters reported.
The government has not yet disclosed details of the attack but media reports have cited British Defense Minister Michael Fallon as saying that UK bombers attacked oilfields in eastern Syria.
The move followed a 10-hour debate held on Wednesday, with some 397 MPs voting in favor of the plan while 223 voted against the UK extending its airstrikes on Daesh targets from Iraq into Syria.
Following the vote, British Prime Minister David Cameron hailed the “right decision,” saying, “I believe the house has taken the right decision to keep the UK safe — military action in Syria as one part of a broader strategy.”
Cameron was one of the adamant supporters of the move to extend the current air campaign as part of a US-led coalition against purported Takfiri positions in Iraq.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond also welcomed the report saying the UK is “safer because of the actions taken by MPs today”. Military strikes alone won’t help Syria, won’t keep us safe from Daesh. But this multi-strand approach will.”
Hammond said British planes are now poised to join the airstrikes within hours, adding that the first strikes could come as early as Thursday night. “Probably not tonight, but it could be tomorrow night,” he told UK media.
Shortly after the vote in the early hours of Thursday, four British jets took off from the UK’s Royal Air Force base Akrotiri in Cyprus. The jets’ destination is still not clear and British authorities are yet to comment on the subject.
During the debate, Cameron urged MPs to “answer the call from our allies” and take action against Daesh that is “plotting to kill us and to radicalize our children right now.”
“Do we work with our allies to degrade and destroy this threat and do we go after these terrorists in their heartlands from where they are plotting to kill British people, or do we sit back and wait for them to attack us?” he said.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was against the bombing but had given MPs a free vote on the subject. The free vote means Labour MPs were not ordered to vote with the leadership.
In reaction to Cameron’s speech, Corbyn said, “It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the prime minister understands public opposition to his ill thought-out rush to war is growing — and wants to hold the vote before it slips from his hands.” “It’s become increasingly clear that the prime minister’s proposals for military action simply do not stack up,”
In a Facebook post published after the vote, Corbyn reiterated on finding a peaceful solution for the crisis, insisting that “I have argued, and will continue to do so, that we should re-double our efforts to secure a diplomatic and political end to the conflict in Syria.”
“British service men and women will now be in harm’s way and the loss of innocent lives is sadly almost inevitable,” Corbyn wrote.
US President Barack Obama also welcomed the vote in a statement, saying, “Since the beginning of the counter-ISIL campaign the United Kingdom has been one of our most valued partners in fighting ISIL. We look forward to having British forces flying with the Coalition over Syria, and will work to integrate them into our Coalition Air Tasking Orders as quickly as possible.”
Obama also praised a recent decision by the German government to deploy 1,200 military personnel to support the fight against terrorism in Syria.
Since August 2014, the United States and some of its allies have been conducting airstrikes against what they say are Daesh positions in Iraq.
Some members of the US-led coalition have also been pounding purported Daesh positions inside Syria without any authorization from Damascus or a UN mandate since September last year.