First French Jets Launch from Aircraft Carrier Near Syria

France carries out its first attacks against the self-declared Islamic State from the Charles de Gaulle.

A French Rafale fighter jet takes off from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the Eastern Mediterranean, November 23
A French Rafale fighter jet takes off from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the Eastern Mediterranean, November 23 (Marine nationale)

French Rafale fighter jets carried out their first strikes against the self-declared Islamic State in Iraq and Syria from the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle on Monday, Agence France-Presse reported.

The airstrikes come a little more than a week after the group claimed responsibility for a series of bombings and shootings in the French capital that left more than 130 people dead.

The carrier, the only one in France’s navy, was deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean before the attacks in Paris.

It carries 26 fighters, tripling France’s capacity in the fight against the fanatical Islamist group.

“Act of war”

French president François Hollande has said the attacks in Paris were “an act of war.”

In their immediate aftermath, French warplanes, flying from bases in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, attacked the Islamic State’s headquarters in Raqqa in eastern Syria where they bombed a command center, munitions depot and training camp, according to the French Ministry of Defense.

Six French Mirage and another six Rafale jets are stationed in the two Arab states.

The nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle is typically accompanied by an attack submarine, frigates, refueling ships and surveillance aircraft.

Russians nearby

It is operating in the same waters as the Russian missile cruiser Moskva. President Vladimir Putin last week ordered his ship to treat the incoming French “as allies.”

To avoid crossing paths with Russian planes flying over Syria, France says it is coordinating with Moscow via the American coalition headquarters in Qatar.

Hollande has called for a united front against the Islamic State, but Russia’s priority in Syria is to “rescue” Bashar al-Assad, the country’s dictator, not to defeat the self-styled caliphate.

France was the first Western country to join the United States in fighting the Islamic State’s militants last year after they had conquered swathes of eastern Syria and western Iraq.