France’s military launched “massive” retaliatory airstrikes against Islamic State sites in Syria on Sunday night, November 15, saying French aircraft struck a command center and training camp at Raqqa.
President François Hollande, who vowed to be “unforgiving with the barbarians” of the Islamic State after the carnage in Paris, decided on the airstrikes in a meeting with his national security team on Saturday, November 14, officials said.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for Friday’s (November 13) suicide bombings and shootings, which have re-ignited a row over Europe’s refugee crisis and drawn calls to block a huge influx of Muslim asylum-seekers.
The French Air Force posted videos on its Facebook page of the planes embarking on the raid of the extremist group’s de facto capital. The strikes come two days after the worst attacks in Paris since World War II.
The French Defense Ministry said the strikes targeted a command post, a training camp and a weapons depot, dropping 20 bombs on Raqqa. It said 10 fighter jets in the operation came from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan in coordination with U.S. forces.
France has been bombing Islamic State positions in Iraq and Syria for months as part of a US-led operation. Following Friday’s mayhem, Paris vowed to destroy the group. Underlining its resolve, French jets on Sunday launched their biggest raids in Syria to date, hitting its stronghold in Raqqa.
“The raid … including 10 fighter jets, was launched simultaneously from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. Twenty bombs were dropped,” the Defence Ministry said. Among the targets were a munitions depot and training camp, it said.
There was no word on casualties or the damage inflicted.
Speaking in Turkey at the G-20 summit, French Foreign Minister Lauren Fabius said, “France has always said that because she has been threatened and attacked by (Isis) it would be normal that she react in the framework of self defense,” The Financial Times reported. “It would be normal to take action. That’s what we did with the strikes on Raqqa, which is their headquarter. We cannot let (Isis) act without reacting.”
Initial reports from activists on the ground in Raqqa, which could not be verified independently, said that hospitals had not reported any civilian casualties. Yet they also said the targeted sites included clinics, a museum and other buildings in an urban area, leaving the full extent of the damage unknown.
Warplanes continued to hover over the city close to midnight, according to residents and activist groups. Residents have seen the city bombed by Syrian, American and Russian warplanes. They have been terrorized by public executions by the Islamic State. Now they are wary of yet another power arriving to pummel the city.