BEIRUT. — US war planes bombed Islamic State militant positions on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border yesterday as hard-line Syrian rebels who have been battling the extremist group sought cover, fearing a wider aerial campaign against all fighters seen as a potential threat to the United States.
The air strikes come a day after the US and five Arab allies opened their military operation against the Islamic State group in Syria with more than 200 strikes on some two dozen targets. That campaign, which President Barack Obama has warned could last years, expands upon the aerial assault the US has already been waging for more than a month against the extremists in Iraq.
“There’s definitely a second day and there’ll be a third and a fourth” in Syria, US Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN in an interview on Wednesday. “This will go on for some time in several forms.”
Along with its Arab partners, the Obama administration aims to destroy the Islamic State group, the extremist faction that has through brute force carved out a proto-state in the heart of the Middle East, effectively erasing the border between Iraq and Syria. The United Nations has accused the group of committing war crimes.
The latest US strikes, conducted by bombers and fighter jets, damaged eight Islamic State vehicles in Syria near the Iraqi border town of Qaim, the US Central Command said in a statement. It also reported hitting two Islamic State armed vehicles west of Baghdad, as well as two militant fighting positions in northern Iraq.
In a separate statement, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said the strikes in eastern Syria hit a staging area used by the militants to move equipment across the border into Iraq.
He did not specify exactly where the air raids took place, but the Iraqi town of Qaim is across the border from the Syrian town of Boukamal, where Syrian activists reported at least 13 air strikes on suspected Islamic State positions yesterday.
In the opening salvo of the campaign, the US on its own also hit al-Qaida’s Syria branch, known as the Nusra Front.
American officials said the strikes targeted the so-called Khorasan Group, which the US says consists of hardened jihadists who pose a direct and imminent threat to the US. — AP.