AKROTIRI: British warplanes have carried out airstrikes in Syria, hours after the United Kingdom’s parliament voted to authorise air attacks against the militant Islamic State (IS) group’s targets there.
Four Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornados took off from a British air base in Akrotiri, Cyprus, shortly after the vote.
The four jets left in pairs within about an hour of each other from the airbase.
Akrotiri has been used as a launchpad for attacks on IS targets in Iraq for just over a year. The RAF has been launching strikes against IS targets in Syria from Cyprus since 2014.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman told the AP the planes had constructed strikes in Syria, and details about their targets would be provided later Thursday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to give his name when discussing operations.
After more than 10 hours of tense debate, British lawmakers voted in favour of the air strikes, by 397 to 223.
In addressing parliament on Wednesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron had said high-precision, laser-guided Brimstone missiles attached to the Tornado GR4 bombers would help to make a real difference by hitting the de facto IS capital of Raqqa and its oil-trading business.
Kremlin welcomes UK Syria strikes but calls for broader coalition
The Kremlin on Thursday said it welcomed British air strikes against the militant Islamic State (IS) group in Syria but argued they lacked a legal basis and called for a broader coalition.
“We continue to welcome any action aimed at fighting terrorism, at fighting the Islamic State,” Russian news agencies quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.
“We of course consider that if these actions are coordinated and if everybody acts as part of a single coalition, effectiveness can be significantly increased.“
Moscow has sought, so far without success, to get nations in the US-led coalition that oppose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to work with its own forces flying a bombing campaign in Syria in a broader coalition.
Peskov said on Thursday that Russia’s “doors are open” for the creation of such a coalition that would include Moscow, the West and some Middle Eastern states.
Moscow, however, maintained that its bombing campaign in Syria – unlike that of the West – is legitimate because Assad had requested it to support Syrian troops’ ground operations.
“From the point of view of international law, the only country that is acting legitimately [in Syria], is the Russian Federation,” Peskov said.
France and the United States are already bombing IS in Syria, while Russia has bombed mainly other rebels, according to conflict monitors and Western officials, in an intervention launched on Sept 30 to bolster its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The West says Assad must go.
Cyprus, which lies about 100 kilometres away from Syria, is the closest European Union member state to turmoil in the Middle East.
Britain, a former colonial power, retains two sovereign military bases in Cyprus.