1st British airstrikes on oilfields deal ISIS ‘real blow’ – Fallon
The raids, which took place early on Thursday morning, targeted oil fields in the north of the country. Analysis indicates “the strikes were successful,” the Ministry of Defence (MoD) claimed.
Fallon told the BBC he had approved the targets before the House of Commons vote on Wednesday evening, and gave permission for the raids to go ahead once MPs had rubberstamped extending airstrikes against ISIS form Iraq into Syria.
He added that airstrikes against extremists are likely to continue for years.
“This is not going to be quick,” he said.
“I can confirm that four British Tornados were in action after the vote last night attacking oil fields in eastern Syria – the Omar oil fields – from which the Daesh [IS] terrorists receive a huge part of their revenue.”
“This strikes a very real blow at the oil and the revenue on which the Daesh terrorists depend.”
The Tornado jets are based at Britain’s Akrotiri base in Cyprus, from which they flew to Syria to conduct the raids shortly after the result of the vote was known.
Some 397 MPs voted in favor of airstrikes, while 223 voted against, giving them a majority of 174. A total of 67 Labour MPs rebelled against party boss Jeremy Corbyn to back the Conservative government’s motion.
Prime Minister David Cameron said it was “the right decision to keep the UK safe.”
Fallon said the decision had allowed RAF bombers to target the extremist group on both sides of the Iraqi/Syrian border.
“They have been able to attack these terrorists on one side of the border. Now they are free to be able to attack some of their key targets on the other side of the border as well – a border that Daesh/ISIL have never respected themselves.”
He explained the planes had attacked oil fields in the north of the country.
“I approved yesterday a series of targets in the Omar oil field – wellheads from which the oil production is derived which helps to finance Daesh.
“All four Tornados have now successfully returned and we will be assessing later this morning the actual damage done. They were using Paveway munitions in an area of oilfields where there was simply oil infrastructure in eastern Syria, a long way from Raqqa itself, down near Iraq.
“It’s a very good illustration of a target that is literally one side of the border and couldn’t previously be attacked.”
However, a report for Al Arabiya published in October suggests the routes to these oilfields were already destroyed in airstrikes earlier in the year, suggesting the oilfields may not actually have been in use.
The parliamentary debate to extend airstrikes was met with protests organized by the Stop the War Coalition, a group previously chaired by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
It called the decision to bomb Syria “profoundly mistaken and dangerous.”
“A new war will not increase the prospects of peace in Syria, nor will the British people be safer from terrorism. And the record of two years’ bombing of IS in Iraq shows that it will not be dislodged by a great-power air war.”