US aircraft have again hit "Islamic State" targets in Syria, the fifth night of airstrikes over Syria. This follows the UK's decision to join the aerial campaign against the Sunni fighters in Iraq, but not in Syria.
A US defense official told the AFP news agency that bombing raids continued against targets in Syria on Friday night.
"I can confirm US air operations are ongoing in Syria," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The mission had become similar to the strikes over Iraq, the source said, with "near continuous" combat flight operations over Syria. The US military's Central Command, in charge of US forces in the Middle East, did not issue details of the latest strikes.
Overnight on Thursday, US planes had for the first time targeted oilfields under the control of the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" (IS) terror group. Illicit oil revenues, from fields in both Syria and Iraq, are thought to make up a significant proportion of "IS" funding.
"Combined with our ongoing efforts in Iraq, these strikes will continue to deny ISIL freedom of movement and challenge its ability to plan, direct, and sustain its operations," Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said, using a former name claimed by the group.
Also on Friday, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that between 12,000 and 15,000 US-trained and -armed rebel fighters would be required in Syria to defeat IS. Washington, unwilling to work with the Syrian government after its military behavior in the country's civil war, currently plans to arm and train 5,000 rebel fighters.
"Five thousand has never been the end state," Dempsey said, saying that airstrikes alone could not succeed and that a "ground component" was an important aspect to the mission in eastern Syria.
"We believe that the path to develop is the Syrian moderate opposition," Dempsey said, adding that new allies would be carefully screened. "We have to do it right, not fast."
White House welcomes new support in Iraq
Politicians in Britain on Friday agreed to participate in airstrikes against IS targets in Iraq, but not in Syria. The White House thanked its new coalition members in a statement, also drawing attention to the non-European support in Syrian airspace.
"These decisions - along with those by Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Qatar to participate in airstrikes against ISIL in Syria - demonstrate the clear commitment of the international community to take action together against these terrorists," the statement read.
British lawmakers voted 524-43 in favor of airstrikes over Iraq.
"This is about psychopathic terrorists that are trying to kill and we do have to realize that, whether we like it or not, they have already declared war on us," British Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament. "There isn't a 'walk on by' option. There isn't an option of just hoping it will go away."
Parliamentarians in Brussels - site of one suspected terror attack believed to be linked to IS - voted 114-2 on a similar bill on Friday. Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt has also offered seven F-16 fighter jets, again for use over Iraq, not Russia-ally Syria. This pledge still required parliamentary approval, but a green light was considered likely.
Germany has committed weaponry, humanitarian aid and training for Iraqis either fighting against or displaced by the IS advance, but has ruled out direct military intervention. The first weapons deliveries arrived in Iraq on Friday.
msh/jm (AFP, AP, dpa)