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Australia Completes First Air Operation in Syria

Agence France-Presse

Australian aircraft completed their first operation in Syria, defense officials said in September 2015, just days after Canberra extended the mission from Iraq to better fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

“The Australian Air Task Group completed its first operational mission in Syria overnight, returning to base in the Middle East without incident,” the Defense Department said in a statement. “No weapons were released during the mission.”

The statement added that two Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18A Hornets, a KC-30A air-to-air refueling aircraft and E-7A Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft were used.

Air Commodore Stu Bellingham, the Australia Air Task Group commander, said the Hornets were searching for enemy activity in eastern Syria, reporting to the international coalition’s Combined Air Operations Center.

“The Hornets were also prepared for any short-notice high-priority tasking, which could include surveillance and weapons release,” Bellingham said.

Australia was already part of the coalition fighting ISIL in Iraq but extended air operations into Syria, saying the legal basis was the collective self-defense of Iraq against the group, which does not respect borders.

“We cannot defeat [ISIL] in Iraq without defeating [ISIL] in Syria, too,” then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott said when he made the announcement.

Australian aircraft will continue to plan and conduct air strikes against ISIL as part of the coalition effort to disrupt and degrade the group’s stronghold, the Defense Department statement said.

ISIL “controls a large amount of territory in eastern Syria that serves as a source of recruitment and oil revenues, and as a base from which it continues to launch attacks into Iraq,” Bellingham added.

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