The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) fighter jets were successful in carrying out their first strike against the Islamic State (IS) targets in Syria, Defence Minister Kevin Andrews announced.
A statement issued by the U.S. military’s Central Command revealed that three airstrikes were conducted in Syria – on an oil collection point, an IS tactical unit and an IS armored personnel carrier.
“I can confirm this morning that the Australian Air Task Group has carried out its first successful mission over eastern Syria. Two days ago an Australian hornet fighter aircraft destroyed a Da’esh armoured personnel carrier with a precision-guided missile,” Andrews said. “This is part of our logical extension in the fight against Da’esh to operate not just over northern Iraq but also to operate over eastern Syria in order to degrade and destroy the Da’esh forces.”
A missile was fired from an Australian F/A-18 Super Hornet during the airstrike, Andrews said.
“Two days ago, the Air Task Group completed its first strike against a Daesh (IS) strike in eastern Syria, destroying an armoured personnel carrier,” he said. “Two of our Hornets identified the personnel carrier, which was hidden in a Daesh compound. That information was reported back to the combined operations centre by our Wedgetail command and control aircraft, and upon receiving authorisation to proceed, one of the Hornets employed a precision guided weapon to destroy the target.”
The RAAF had worked within “very strict rules of engagements” to make certain that any “unwanted” civilians didn’t have to lose their lives in the operation. Andrews could not confirm whether any people were killed in the airstrikes, as reported by The Australian.
The statement about the airstrikes was released by the U.S. Central Command overnight. When asked why the Australian government had delayed releasing the details of the operation, Andrews said, “We don’t normally announce the missions that occur almost on a daily basis. On this occasion, I was planning to make a ministerial statement, which is a six-monthly update of our operations in the Middle East and that’s due today.”
Confirming Australia’s participation in the airstrikes in Syria, the U.S. statement, issued by the Combined Joint Task Force in charge of Operation Inherent Resolve, also detailed 15 airstrikes that were carried out against the Islamic State group in Iraq. Some of the other countries that have participated in the operation until now are Bahrain, Canada, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UAE and the US, as reported by ABC.net.au.
The assistant treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, said that the airstrikes were part of the efforts to “make Syria safer and to stop the persecution of millions of people there as Isis advances. We’re part of a broader coalition in Syria. This is part of Australia’s global responsibility that not only makes the world safer but also protects us here at home. We have an important role to play as part of the global response because if Australia doesn’t step up to the plate then very few countries will.”
Last week, former prime minister, Tony Abbott, announced that Australia’s military campaign against the IS will be expanded beyond Iraq to Syria, where the terror group has taken control of large areas of territory.
Amid the US and other European nations expressing their concern over Russia’s military support to Bashar al-Assad’s government, president Vladimir Putin promised to provide more military backup to Syria and urged other countries to follow suit.
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