Dutch F-16s go after first Islamic State targets in Syria


Dutch F-16 fighter jets have bombed Islamic State targets for the first time in Syria since broadening its mission in the U.S.-led air campaign, the defense ministry said on Tuesday.

“Dutch F-16s carried out around 10 missions over Iraq and eastern Syria,” the Hague-based ministry said in its weekly summary of operations on its website.

It is the first time the summary has mentioned targets in Syria since the Dutch government late last month announced it was fanning out its current air support mission over Iraq into Syria, in the wake of U.S. and French requests.

The airstrikes were directed against “combat positions, military equipment and strategic aims of the IS terror organisation,” the ministry said, without detailing when and where the attacks took place.

The Netherlands is participating in the Iraq strikes with four F-16 aircraft specializing in close air support of ground operations by Iraqi forces.

Late last year in the wake of the November Paris attacks, the Dutch government received a request from U.S. and French allies to broaden its campaign against the Islamic State jihadi group — also known by the acronym ISIS.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in January said the extended air operations would target eastern Syria “in particular to stop the IS ‘pipeline’ leading from Syria into Iraq.”

U.S. airstrikes in Iraq began in August 2014 after Islamic State captured a swath of territory in Iraq and Syria in a lightning offensive.

Washington and Arab allies broadened the strikes against Islamic State into Syria a month later in September 2014, with the U.S. also leading moves to build an international coalition of some 60 nations against the jihadis.

The four Dutch F-16 jet fighters that have been pounding the jihadis in Iraq since October 2014 will “remain active until July 1 over the enlarged zone,” the government said last month.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders has cautioned, however, that bombing was not the whole solution in a “complex conflict” in Syria.

More than 260,000 people have been killed in Syria’s conflict and more than half the population has been displaced.