A Pentagon source reported that the United States and Arab allies began carrying out airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) group targets on Syrian soil.
Rear Admiral John Kirby singled out that fighter planes, bombers, and Tomahawk missiles were used in the attack.
Reports indicate that several attacks targeted the city of Raqqa, a major IS base of operations in eastern Syria that the group captured in 2013.
Reports published on social networks indicate that among the places attacked are the governor’s house, the equestrian club and a hospital.
“Because these operations are ongoing, we are not in a position to provide details at this time,” the rear admiral said in a written statement.
The decision to strike in Syria was made by General Lloyd Austin, head of the US Central Command “under the authorization given by the commander in chief,” Kirby added.
Among the countries involved in this offensive are Arab states, military sources told the BBC.
Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar -the latter with logistical support- are among those nations.
The offensive is part of announcements made earlier this month by US President Barack Obama, who vowed to “degrade and destroy” IS.
From the sea and from the air
The United States carried out the first attacks using Tomahawk missiles from the sea and later by means of bombers and fighter planes. It was also due to the fact that new offensives will be carried out in the next few hours.
According to the BBC World correspondent in Washington, Thomas Sparrow, the announcement of the first air strikes in Syria confirms the geographical and political expansion of the strategy announced by President Barack Obama to combat the self-styled Islamic State group.
“In Iraq, the United States has already carried out at least 190 air strikes according to the figures revealed by the Central Command. But in Syria, President Obama’s challenge seems to be greater, since it is a country that has been in a bloody civil war for several years, where there are hundreds of different groups involved and where the US is also facing the government of Bashar al Asad”, adds Sparrow.
The unknowns of this offensive
These air strikes open up a series of unknowns about what this offensive implies for the strategy of the United States and its allies, as reported by our correspondent in Washington.
The first question is about the role that the Arab countries have in the joint mission.
Details on how exactly these nations are contributing and what their role will be going forward are not yet known. It is likely that in the next few hours they will begin to reveal more information about it.
A second unknown concerns the impact that the attacks will have on the ground to stop IS.
The United States is expected to arm and train “moderate” rebels to take charge of the fighting, but Syria is a very complex country, with an estimated 1,500 groups, so Washington has a huge challenge in decide whom to help and under what conditions, and how this will be combined with airstrikes.
Another big question is how it will affect the government of Bashar al-Assad, an opponent of both the US and IS.
There are those who think that these attacks may even have the unintended effect of strengthening the Syrian president, although the United States has denied this. Either way, the Syrian puzzle cannot be solved without Assad and it remains to be seen how his forces will react to US air raids.
A fourth question is where this offensive with which Washington wants to “degrade and destroy” IS will end.
In Iraq there have already been almost 200 airstrikes since the beginning of August and since then the conflict has only increased in intensity. Now we come to Syria and there has been some concern in Washington that this could become an open issue.