French jets strike IS, Britain offers help

  • 24/11/2015

By Leigh Thomas

French jets from the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier have struck Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria as Britain offered France the use of an air base in Cyprus to hit the militant group behind the Paris attacks.

French President Francois Hollande met British Prime Minister David Cameron in Paris on Monday (local time) to rally support for the fight against Islamic State (IS) and Hollande will visit Washington and Moscow this week.

Cameron offered air-to-air refuelling services and went further by saying he will recommend Britain's parliament vote for carrying out air strikes alongside France on IS targets in Syria.

France has intensified its bombings in Syria since the group claimed the November 13 Paris attacks that killed at least 130 people. IS is also being targeted from the air by a US-led coalition and Russia.

French jets taking off from the country's flagship in the eastern Mediterranean destroyed targets in Ramadi and Mosul in Iraq on Monday supporting Iraqi ground forces, the French armed forces said in a statement.

An evening air raid was also carried out on Raqqa, Syria, with the French saying several facilities including a command centre were destroyed.

France's air force's firepower has tripled to 38 since the arrival of the aircraft carrier.

"I firmly support the action that President Hollande has taken to strike ISIL (Islamic State) in Syria and it is my firm conviction that Britain should do so too," Cameron said after his meeting with Hollande.

"Later this week, I will set out in parliament our comprehensive strategy for tackling ISIL," Cameron said.

Cameron wants to avoid a repeat of 2013 when he lost a vote on air strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces. Britain is already bombing Islamic State in Iraq.

Hollande said France planned to intensify its air strikes on IS in Syria, with a focus on destroying targets that would cause as much damage as possible.

Britain's Cyprus Akrotiri air base could also offer another refuelling option for French jets, which has been using Jordan and the United Arab Emirates bases.

Hollande will visit Washington on Tuesday where he hopes to overcome President Barack Obama's reluctance to get sucked further into the Syria conflict.

French officials are making no secret of their desire to see the United States do more.

Hollande is also due to receive German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday night and Italy's President Matteo Renzi on Thursday morning.

"We all need each other, so we have to find ways to coordinate," French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Sunday.

"We can do that without a combined military command structure, we just need to talk to each other."