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US forces undertaking military action against Islamic State terrorists in Syria using a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Missiles An F/A-18C hornet takes off from the flight deck of the US navy aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush in the Gulf
The United States and Gulf Arab allies have launched air and missile strikes on self-styled Islamic State group strongholds in Syria and al-Qaeda affiliated militants.
“I can confirm that US military and partner nation forces are undertaking military action against terrorists in Syria using a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles,” Rear Admiral John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, said.
“Given that these operations are ongoing, we are not in a position to provide additional details at this time.”
Both the self-styled Islamic State group and the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front were targeted in the strikes, according to monitors.
The US Defence Department said that said that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Qatar and Bahrain were all involved, although their exact roles in the military action were unclear.
US-led coalition airstrikes also killed 30 Al-Qaeda militants in western Aleppo province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.
The toll came after the Pentagon confirmed eight strikes against “seasoned Al-Qaeda veterans” in the province, saying the raids disrupting “imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests”.
Another official said at least one US ship had launched surface-to-surface Tomahawk cruise missiles. Armed US drones were also used in the attacks.
The targets included Raqqa city, the headquarters of the sef-styled Islamic State group, an extremist Sunni Muslim force that has seized large expanses of territory in Iraq and Syria and proclaimed a caliphate erasing borders in the heart of the Middle East.
Syrian state television said the United States informed Syria’s UN representative yesterday that Islamic State targets would be hit in Raqqa, which is 400km northeast of Damascus.
US officials and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group that tracks violence in the Syrian war, said buildings used by the militants, their weapons supplies and checkpoints were targeted in the attacks on Raqqa.
Areas along the Iraq-Syria border were also hit.
“There are tens of wounded and dead,” Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Observatory, which gathers information from a network of activists on the ground, told Reuters news agency by phone.
The addition of Arab allies was seen as crucial for the credibility of the American-led campaign.
US allies in the Middle East are skeptical of how far Washington will commit to a conflict in which nearly every country in the region has a stake, set against the backdrop of Islam’s 1,300-year-old rift between Sunnis and Shi’ites.
As part of US efforts to build the coalition, Secretary of State John Kerry travelled to New York at the weekend.
It came ahead of the start of United Nations General Assembly meetings, for talks with counterparts from Arab and European allies to discuss plans to defeat Islamic State and hear their views on how they might participate.
Israel shoots down Syrian fighter jet
Israel shot down a Syrian fighter jet over the Golan Heights, the army said, indicating that it had crossed the ceasefire line into the Israeli-occupied sector.
It was the most serious incident to take place on the strategic plateau since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011.
“A warplane that penetrated Israeli territory was successfully shot down a short while ago by the air defence systems along the Syrian border,” a military statement said, without giving further details.
Army radio said it was apparently a MiG-21 fighter jet which was shot down by a surface-to-air Patriot missile, with the wreckage landing on the Syrian-controlled side of the plateau.
The downing came just three weeks after Israel shot down a drone over the Golan as heavy fighting raged on the Syrian side, most of which has been seized by rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
Meanwhile, Minister for Defence Simon Coveney will be reporting to cabinet today on developments regarding the next deployment of troops to the Golan Heights.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Coveney said he would be making a recommendation to cabinet and subsequently making a statement in the Dáil this afternoon.
He said the Government had made it very clear to the United Nations that they needed to see a structural change to the mission there.