RAQQA, Syria — The United States and a coalition of Arab forces began airstrikes on the advancing Islamic terror group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on Tuesday, launching an offensive attack for the first time on Syrian soil.
“I can confirm that U.S. military and partner nation forces are undertaking military action against ISIS terrorists in Syria using a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack missiles,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters. “Given that these operations are ongoing, we are not in a position to provide additional details at this time.”
Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are among the coalition of allies in the effort. Approximately 20 ISIS targets have been struck so far, including the headquarters of the organization.
In a message to the nation earlier this month, Barack Obama indicated that he would approve of the use of force in the nation. The U.S. has already been carrying out airstrikes in Iraq, with an estimated 190 attacks to date, according to reports.
“I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are,” he stated. “That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”
Obama’s warning followed the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff, who was murdered by ISIS just weeks after journalist James Foley was also decapitated. Militants with the group stated that they were killing the men because of U.S. intervention in Iraq, and threatened further bloodshed if attacks continued.
According to reports, the majority of the estimated 30,000 ISIS fighters reside in Syria, with the remainder inhabiting Iraq. Raqqa is one of the main cities captured by the Islamic group, and is the location where several mock crucifixions have occurred in broad daylight, hanging those already executed on makeshift wooden crosses as a public spectacle.
“What they are conveying is those who oppose ISIS rule oppose [Allah]’s rule, and those who are enemies of ISIS are enemies of [Allah] and deserve the highest form of punishment possible,” Abbas Barzegar, assistant professor of Islamic studies at Georgia State University, told CNN.
Over 60,000 Syrian Kurds fled to Turkey over the weekend to escape the violence, as ISIS seized dozens of villages near the Syrian/Turkey border.
“ISIS came and attacked, and we left with the women, but the rest of the men stayed behind,” 24-year-old Abdullah of Shiran told Reuters on Saturday. “They killed many people in the villages, cutting their throats. We were terrified that they would cut our throats too.”
While Obama has authorized military airstrikes against the terrorist organization, he has repeatedly stated that there will be no American “boots on the ground” in the war effort. Tuesday’s airstrike marks the beginning of a new phase in the coalition of forces against ISIS, which seeks to capture land for Allah and create an Islamic state under Sharia law.