Jordanian warplanes bombed Islamic State positions in Syria in a show of the kingdom’s determination to maintain its presence in the U.S.-led coalition even as other U.S. allies hold back.
State-run Jordanian TV said the royal air force carried out a mission without saying where. Arabiya TV said it was over Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital, in Syria. The army said in a statement that the planes hit Islamic State training camps and ammunition depots, and all returned safely, according to Ammon news agency.
The jets “rocked the cowardly terrorists in their holes and hideouts since the morning,” Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said on his Twitter account. The planes flew over the pilot’s hometown of Karak on their return as the minister, the king and other officials were with the father offering condolences, Judeh said.
The bombing run comes two days after Islamic State released a video showing pilot Moath al-Kasassbeh, whom it captured in December, being burned alive inside a cage. King Abdullah II vowed to wage a relentless war against Islamic State to avenge his death.
Jordan, one of the biggest recipients of American financial aid, is one of the Sunni Muslim states that joined the U.S. military campaign to expel Islamic State from the territory it has seized in Syria and Iraq.
While Abdullah vowed to step up the fight, the United Arab Emirates, another Arab ally that’s been involved in the bombing campaign, suspended its participation in December after al-Kasassbeh was captured. It’s seeking U.S. pilot-rescue teams to be positioned closer to the Syrian battleground, where they’d be primed for quicker action.
In a show of support for the king’s decision to continue airstrikes, more than 2,000 Jordanians from across the country gathered at a sit-in in Amman, waving flags and pictures of the dead pilot. “This is our war more than before” and “Moath’s death made us stronger,” read some of the banners.
“After this barbarism, Jordan is directly threatened and we want our army to do its best to take revenge,” said Mohammad Judeh, a retired military officer. “We want our country to have a clear position that it is in an open war.”
Al-Kasassbeh was the latest captive to be executed by Islamic State, which says it’s punishing countries that joined the U.S.-led military campaign to crush its self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria. His death has touched off a wave of condemnation across the Middle East.