THE GUARDIAN 12 AUGUST 2015 - USA WARPLANES F-16 LAUNCH FIRST AIR STRIKES AGAIN ISIS IN SYRIA
US warplanes have carried out their first air strikes on Islamic State (Isis) targets in Syria after taking off from a Turkish base, kicking off a key new phase in the campaign against the jihadists.
US drones had previously executed a single lethal air strike against an Isis target in Syria but this was the first time manned US fighter jets had carried out raids after taking off from Turkey’s strategically located Incirlik base.
Turkey is currently pressing a two-pronged “anti-terror” offensive against Isis jihadists in Syria and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in northern Iraq and south-east Turkey following a wave of attacks inside the country.
But until now the Turkish air strikes have overwhelmingly concentrated on the separatist Kurdish rebels, to the frustration of western commentators who want to see Turkey ramp up its involvement in the fight against Isis.
Using the Incirlik base outside the city of Adana in southern Turkey drastically cuts the distance needed for the US jets to fly to northern Syria compared with other launch bases farther afield in the Middle East.
“Today, the United States began flying manned counter-Isil missions from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Strikes were conducted,” Pentagon spokeswoman Commander Elissa Smith said, using an alternate name for the terror group.
Turkey’s Dogan news agency said three US fighter jets were seen taking off from Incirlik in the evening.
Last month, Turkey agreed to open up the base to coalition planes for bombing Isis targets in Syria following months of tough negotiations.