Australia would conduct air strikes over Syria, prime minister Tony Abbott announced today as part of an announcement that the nation will also offer 12,000 extra refugee places to Syrians.
The Australian air force will “disrupt, degrade and ultimately defeat the Daesh death cult” in Syria, Abbott said, marking the next phase of Australia’s contribution to the international effort against Islamic State.
“It follows Iraq’s requests for international assistance to strike Daesh strongholds, and a formal request from the Obama administration,” Abbott said.
Six F/A-18 Hornet aircraft, a KC-30A multi-role tanker transport and an E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft will be deployed.
“The extension of the Australian Defence Force’s operations into Syria will help protect Iraq and its people from Daesh attacks inside Iraq and from across the border in Syria,” he said.
“The Daesh death cult is reaching out to Australians, as terrorist incidents and disrupted attacks here have demonstrated. The Daesh death cult does not respect borders and threatens the security of Iraq and the international community from its safe havens in Syria.
“This is a decision that is firmly in Australia’s national interest.
“It reflects the Government’s steadfast commitment to keeping Australians safe from terrorism, preventing the spread of violent extremism to our shores and responding to a deepening humanitarian crisis.”
The prime minister said the government was not contemplating putting troops on the ground in Syria.
“As to what might happen in the long-term future, it’s just not appropriate to speculate today. But we are continuing to work with our partners and allies to ensure that the response is prudent, proportionate and effective,” he said.
Defence minister Kevin Andrews said the air strikes were a “practical and logical extension” of current operations.
Australia joins the United States, Canada, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey in operations against the Islamic State in Syria.
Australia’s prior involvement in Syria has been limited to refuelling and gathering intelligence.
Australia deployed an air task group to the Middle East in 2014, with the first combat mission flown on October 6, but they only operated up to the Iraq-Syria border.
Abbott said the size and nature of Australia’s commitment in Syria will remain under regular review. He did not say when the RAAF would be deployed.
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