Britain Launches Airstrikes in Syria

Britain Launches Airstrikes in Syria
Britain Launches Airstrikes in Syria

The British Parliament voted on Wednesday to launch bombing raids against Islamic State in Syria, supporting Prime Minister David Cameron’s case that the country needs to help destroy militants who are “plotting to kill us”.

After more than 10 hours of tense debate, lawmakers voted in favour of air strikes, by 397 to 223. Hours after the vote, four British fighter jets took off from the RAF Akrotiri airbase in Cyprus, a Reuters witness said. The destination of the jets was not immediately clear and there was no comment from British authorities.

The victory hands Cameron the chance to restore Britain’s standing in global affairs. He had urged lawmakers not to turn their back on allies such as France in their time of need.

“Britain is safer tonight because of the decision that the House of Commons has taken,” Foreign Minister Philip Hammond told Sky News.

Many British voters are wary of being dragged into another war in the Middle East. Some view western intervention in Iraq and Libya as a failure that sowed chaos across the region. News of the vote was met by howls of disgust by dozens of anti-war protesters demonstrating outside parliament.

But the Nov. 13 attacks on Paris that killed 130 people and were claimed by IS have stiffened the resolve of some lawmakers and divided the opposition Labor Party, which convinced Cameron he could win the support of parliament for extending air strikes beyond Iraq.

Cameron said the more than four-year Syrian civil war could not be resolved by military action alone, but that the strikes would “degrade” IS militants - which he said should be called Daesh.

Daesh is the pejorative word used by opponents or people who do not support Islamic State to refer to the jihadist group.

US President Barack Obama welcomed the parliamentary vote.

“Since the beginning of the counter-ISIL campaign the United Kingdom has been one of our most valued partners in fighting ISIL,” Obama said in a statement, referring to Islamic State by an acronym.

“We look forward to having British forces flying with the coalition over Syria, and will work to integrate them into our coalition air tasking orders as quickly as possible,” Obama said.

Germany’s parliament also voted on Friday in favor of joining the campaign against IS, although only to provide military support for air strikes, not actually to take part in them.