The United States has begun surveillance flights over militant-controlled parts of Syria after US President Barack Obama’s authorization, according to American officials.
One unnamed official said on Tuesday that the reconnaissance flights had started, while two other officials said earlier that Obama had ordered the flights, The Associated Press reported.
According to reports, the flights will provide intelligence information on potential targets for airstrikes in Syria if the US president approves.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said that the Pentagon wanted more clarity on the ISIL terrorist group in Syria, but declined to comment on the flights.
“Clearly the picture we have of ISIS (ISIL) on the Iraqi side is a more refined picture,” said Dempsey. “The existence and activities of ISIS on the Syrian side … we certainly want to have more insights.”
On Monday, the Syrian government insisted that any military action on its soil must be coordinated in advance. Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said that Syria rejects any unilateral military strikes by the US or any other country.
“Any violation of Syria’s sovereignty would be an act of aggression,” he said. There would be “no justification” for strikes on Syrian territory “except in coordination with us to fight terrorism.”
American officials, however, said they do not intend to ask permission from Damascus for the flights.
The United States’ decision to expand its military and reconnaissance activities in Syria and Iraq is triggered by the growing fear of ISIL which now controls large parts of Iraq and Syria.
The Obama administration has elevated ISIL as “enemy number one” for the United States after the terrorist group beheaded an American journalist James Foley in Syria.
The United States last week launched airstrikes against the militants who have overun parts of western and northern Iraq. The strikes came several months after the group began its attacks in Iraq.
A recent report by an independent news website, WND, said that ISIL militants were trained in 2012 by US instructors working at a secret base in Jordan.
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