France presses ahead with surveillance flights over Syria

Friday 04/09/2015
Towards greater involvement in Syria

PARIS - France carried out surveillance flights over Syria for a second day on Wednesday as it prepares for possible attacks on Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists, the army said in a statement.

The flight was carried out to "acquire intelligence on the terrorist group Daesh," said the statement, using an Arabic acronym for the jihadists who control parts of Syria and Iraq.

France has been part of a US-led coalition bombing ISIS positions in Iraq for the past year, but changed strategy this week in announcing it would join Washington, Canada, Gulf allies and Turkey in also carrying out airstrikes in Syria.

President Francois Hollande said he was ordering surveillance flights because he wanted to find out "what is being prepared against us and what is being done against the Syrian population".

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the flights would "determine what action can be taken when the time comes."

His spokesman Romain Nadal confirmed that Paris has not had any diplomatic ties to Damascus since closing its embassy there in 2012.

The shift came as political pressure mounts over a flood of refugees -- mostly from Syria -- and the jihadist threat posed by ISIS.

Australia followed suit, announcing it would join airstrikes in Syria.

Meanwhile Britain, which killed two jihadists in an unprecedented drone attack in Syria this week, has also indicated it is mulling joining the coalition's bombing campaign there.

The French army has six Rafale jets stationed in the United Arab Emirates and six Mirages in Jordan, as well as a C-135 refuelling aircraft and a maritime patrol jet.

Some 700 soldiers are taking part in France's operations against ISIS.

To date, Paris has launched more than 200 strikes against the group's positions in Iraq.