LONDON: Britain joined the US-led bombing campaign against Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria on Thursday, with air strikes beginning just hours after a decisive parliamentary vote.
Royal Air Force planes based in Cyprus had returned from the “first offensive operation over Syria and have conducted strikes”, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said early Thursday, following a vote Wednesday evening.
He refused to give details of the specific sites targeted.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s government was backed by 397 lawmakers compared to 223 who opposed the bombing, giving him the strong mandate he said was essential for military action.
Cameron welcomed the result of the House of Commons vote, writing 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.”
It was also immediately hailed by US President Barack Obama, who said the US would “look forward to having British forces flying with the coalition over Syria”.
But during the debate, a wide range of MPs from all parties including main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke out against air strikes.
Some 2,000 anti-war protesters also held a “die-in” outside parliament ahead of the vote during their second consecutive night of protest.
Corbyn condemned Cameron’s “ill thought-out rush to war” and said his proposals “simply do not stack up”.
However, Labour was also deeply split on the issue. Some 67 of its 231 MPs reportedly voted in favour of bombing, including 11 members of Corbyn’s frontbench team.
“Tornados at dawn” was the front-page headline on Britain’s top-selling paper, The Sun, while The Times ran with: “PM wins huge backing for war”.