Air strikes hit strongholds of Islamic State militants in east Syria
RAQQA: Air strikes hit Islamic State and other
Islamist groups in eastern Syria early on Saturday, a monitoring group said, as
a US-led coalition seeks to turn the tide against the militants who have
captured swathes of Syria and northern Iraq.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
said at least 31 explosions were heard in the province of Raqqa, a stronghold
of Islamic State, and casualties were reported.
It said warplanes also struck areas east of the desert
town of Palmyra in Homs province and hit several IS checkpoints around the
Kurdish town of Kobani close to the Turkish border.
Later on Saturday, a Reuters witness saw two British
fighter jets leaving a Royal Air Force base in Cyprus, a day after the British
parliament authorised air strikes on Iraq.
The US-led air campaign has yet to stop the advance of
the Islamic State fighters on the town of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab,
which has been under attack for at least 10 days. The assault has sent 140,000
refugees across the frontier since last week in the biggest such exodus in
three and a half years of civil war.
“Today, they (IS fighters) have made advances on the
western side of the town,” Rami Abdelrahman of the Observatory said.
The United States is leading a military coalition
including some Gulf and European nations to stop the advance of Islamic State,
which swept across northern Iraq in June. The group has proclaimed a caliphate
ruling over all Muslims, slaughtered prisoners and ordered Shi’ites and
non-Muslims to convert or die.
The campaign has brought Washington back to the
battlefield of Iraq that it left in 2011 and into Syria for the first time
after avoiding involvement in a war that began the same year.
Militant groups in the region and websites commonly
used by their supporters did not immediately mention any attacks on Saturday.
The targets of the air strikes on Saturday included
several military bases occupied by IS including Tabqa military airport, where
many members of the group were killed, the Observatory said, without giving a
Syria’s government, which in the past accused its
opponents of being Western agents trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad,
has not objected to the air strikes that began on Tuesday and said it was
informed by Washington before the air campaign began.
It too has carried out air strikes across the country,
including in the east and its ground forces have recaptured the town of Adra,
northeast of Damascus, tightening Assad's grip on territory around the capital.
But Russia questioned the legality of U.S. and Arab
air strikes in Syria because they were carried out without the approval of
Damascus, Moscow's ally.