French forces strike in Syria
Hollande approves attack for ‘safety’ of French and Syrian civilians
French fighter jets destroyed an Islamic State (IS) training camp last weekend in what was the European nation’s first attack on Syria.
On Sunday 27th September, air strikes were carried out in the eastern region of the war-torn nation to prevent IS forces from carrying out attacks against ‘French interests’ and to protect Syrian civilians.
Previously, France had only struck IS targets in neighbouring Iraq, whilst providing limited logistical support to Syrian rebels it considers to be moderate, including Kurds.
Speaking ahead of a United Nations General Assembly in New York, French President, Francois Hollande, confirmed the attack.
“France struck in Syria this morning [at] an Islamic State training camp which threatened the security of our country,” Mr Hollande told reporters.
The 61-year-old added that six fighter jets had destroyed their targets near the area of Deir ez-Noir and did not rule out the possibility of more operations being carried out in upcoming weeks.
France had initially feared strikes in Syria could be counter-productive and could strengthen President Bashar al-Assad, who has been fighting a rebellion against his rule since 2011.
However, following a series of deadly attacks by Islamist militants in France this year, including the killing of 12 people at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo publications, President Hollande and the French government have taken a stronger stance against the extremists.
In addition, Paris has become alarmed by IS gains in northern Syria and the possibility of France being sidelined in negotiations to reach a political solution in Syria.
A French diplomatic source added that Paris needed to be one of the ‘hitters’ in Syria - those taking direct military action - to legitimately take part in any negotiations for a political solution to the conflict.
Mr Hollande said he would support those efforts and France would hold bilateral meetings throughout the week with key players in the Syria crisis before a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Paris on Friday.
“France doesn't sideline anybody, but the future of Syria cannot pass through President Bashar al-Assad,” he said.