British fighter jets have returned from their first airstrike against the ISIS in the terror group’s Syria stronghold.
The first two Tornado jets deployed were sent into action from RAF Akrotiri, in Cyprus, just 57 minutes after MPs voted in favour of military action. The jets have hit six targets including an ISIS-controlled oil field in the east of the country.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman confirmed the news saying that the sorties have now returned from the “first offensive operation over Syria and have conducted strikes”.
The move comes just 57 minutes after MPs voted in favour of Prime Minister David Cameron’s proposal to extend military operations in Syria.
A stunning majority of 174 votes sealed the deal.
Within hours of the vote, Tornado GR4 jets and a Voyager refuelling tanker took off from RAF Marham, Norfolk for Cyprus. Six Typhoon jets will also deploy from RAF Lossiemouth, Scotland, thereby doubling the number of air attacks at the British base, which has already played a key role in Iraq strikes.
A rousing speech by Hilary Benn half an hour before Commons vote is believed to have helped persuade 66 Labour MPs to back the raids.
Addressing the labour Party from the Despatch Box he said: “As a party we have always been defined by our internationalism.”
“We never have and never should walk by on the other side of the road.”
“And we are here faced by fascists. Not just their calculated brutality but their belief that they are superior to every single one of us in this Chamber tonight and all of the people that we represent.”
“They hold us in contempt. They hold our values in contempt. They hold our belief in tolerance and decency in contempt. They hold our democracy, the means by which we will make our decision tonight, in contempt.”
“And what we know about fascists is that they need to be defeated. We must now confront this evil. It is now time for us to do our bit in Syria. And that is why I ask my colleagues to vote for this motion tonight.”
There was loud cheer and applause on both the government and opposition benches hearing Benn’s speech.
Labour MP Stella Creasy, who had been targeted by anti-war protesters all day, said Mr Benn had convinced her “that fascism must be defeated”.
Tory veteran Nichaolas Soames called it “one of the very best I have heard in the last 32 years really powerful heard in total silence.”
Labour’s Toby Perkins added: “Hilary Benn just gave one of the great speeches in parliamentary history.’
Mr Cameron has long argued that it made no sense to respect a border between Iraq and Syria which is ignored by ISIS.
Welcoming the decision, Cameron posted on Twitter: “I believe the House has taken the right decision to keep the UK safe – military action in Syria as one part of a broader strategy.”
During a marathon debate lasting almost 11 hours, MPs lined up to say Britain must answer the pleas of allies including France and the United States.
They said the UK must join the fight against the group responsible for the Tunisian beach massacre, the downing of a Russian plane, the Paris atrocity last month and countless sickening beheadings of hostages, including Britons.
US President Barack Obama welcomed Britain’s decision to join the coalition strike against ISIS targets and said: “The special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is rooted in our shared values and mutual commitment to global peace, prosperity and security.”
“Since the beginning of the counter-ISIL campaign the United Kingdom has been one of our most valued partners.”
“ISIL is a global threat that must be defeated by a global response.”