Akrotiri | British warplanes carried out airstrikes in Syria early Thursday, hours after Parliament voted to authorize air attacks against Islamic State group targets there. Four Royal Air Force Tornados took off from a British air base in Akrotiri, Cyprus, shortly after the 397-223 vote by lawmakers in the House of Commons.
A Ministry of Defense spokesman told the AP the planes had conducted strikes in Syria, and details about their targets would be provided today. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give his name when discussing operations. The RAF has been launching strikes against IS targets in Iraq since 2014.
The decision to expand the campaign to Syria came after an emotional 10 1/2-hour debate in which Prime Minister David Cameron said that Britain must strike the militants in their heartland and not sit back and wait for them to attack us.
Opponents argued that Britain’s entry into Syria’s crowded airspace would make little difference, and said Cameron’s military plan was based on wishful thinking that overlooked the messy reality of the Syrian civil war. Cameron has long wanted to target IS in Syria, but had been unsure of getting majority support in the House of Commons until now. He suffered an embarrassing defeat in 2013 when lawmakers rejected a motion backing attacks on the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The mood has changed following the Nov 13 Paris attacks, claimed by IS, that killed 130 people. Both France and the US. have urged Britain to join their air campaign in Syria, and Cameron said Britain should not let its allies down. He said Britain was already a top target for IS attacks, and airstrikes would reduce the group’s ability to plan more Paris-style carnage.
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? he said. Or do we sit back and wait for them to attack us, he said that attacking IS was not anti-Muslim but a defense of Islam against women-raping, Muslim-murdering, medieval monsters.
Cameron was backed by most members of his governing Conservative Party which holds 330 of the 650 Commons seats as well as members of the smaller Liberal Democrat party and others.
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