Overnight Airstrikes in Syria Kill at least 14 Militants and Five Civilians
(CNN) — U.S.-led coalition airstrikes overnight in eastern Syria killed at least 14 militants and five civilians, a monitoring group said Thursday.
Among the targets hit were an ISIS headquarters in Deir Ezzor province and a training camp, according to the dissident group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Several oil refineries were hit in the province as well, the SOHR said.
The U.S. military has not released details of the damage caused by the latest round of airstrikes.
The United States and Arab partners are now trying to choke off ISIS by going after its pocketbooks.
In the latest wave of airstrikes in Syria, warplanes pummeled mobile oil refineries used to fund the terror group.
How much could that hurt?
ISIS makes up to $2 million a day from the oil produced by the mobile refineries, Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said.
Kirby vowed that more U.S. attacks will come. But military experts say airstrikes alone won’t put an end to ISIS.
“Even if we stop their oil flow today, they still have about a billion dollars in the bank,” retired U.S. Army Col. Peter Mansoor said.
“They seized about a third of a billion dollars from the central bank of Mosul (Iraq).” On top of that, Mansoor said, ISIS has garnered millions of dollars in ransoms from European governments for hostages and have traded much of their oil.
And more challenges loom.
Mansoor said ISIS has likely dispersed much of their command-and-control capabilities and leaders and are now “mixed in with the civilian population.”
“So it’s unlikely these airstrikes have crippled ISIS. As the President has said, it’s going to be a long campaign, and it will be months — perhaps years — before ISIS is dealt a serious blow absent any sort of ground force to go in and root them out on the ground.
What’s been hit?
So far, officials have confirmed 198 strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and 33 strikes against ISIS in Syria.
In the latest round Wednesday targeting the refineries in Syria, fighter jets from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates flew alongside U.S. aircraft, hitting 12 locations, Kirby said.
While the U.S. military was still assessing the outcome, Kirby said “we are very confident we hit what we were aiming at, and we caused the damage we wanted.”
While the U.S.-led military action in Syria hasn’t been widely embraced, those involved in the international coalition in Iraq is growing.
The Dutch foreign ministry announced Wednesday that its military will contribute six F-16 fighter jets and 250 troops to carry out airstrikes and train Iraqi and Kurdish forces. Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said his country’s parliament will weigh a request for six of its fighter jets to take part in the bombing campaign.
Similarly, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he’s recalling Parliament Friday “to secure approval for the United Kingdom to participate in the Iraq air campaign.
“The U.N. Security Council has now received a clear request from the Iraqi government to support it in its military action against ISIL,” Cameron said from U.N. headquarters in New York. “… So it is right that Britain should move to a new phase of action.”
Activist: ISIS fighters keep low profile
An activist from Raqqa, who uses the pseudonym Maher al-Ahmad, told CNN he’d gone back to the town after the airstrikes.
“It’s the first time I didn’t see ISIS in the streets, that I was able to walk around, because I am wanted by them,” said al-Ahmad, who moves between Raqqa and Turkey’s Gaziantep province.
He said people who were there during the strikes described them as feeling like earthquakes.
Some 20 to 25 vehicles filled with ISIS fighters, including people he believes were senior leadership because of the level of security around them, left the city within hours of the attacks, the activist said.
ISIS fighters began moving into the homes of civilians in the past two to three weeks, al-Ahmad said, raising fears that the civilians may be used as human shields or fall victim to future airstrikes.
Hassan al-Halabi, an activist from Aleppo, voiced similar fears, saying residents there have two main concerns about upcoming strikes in Syria.
“The first is that they are afraid of having civilian casualties because ISIS members and fighters are among civilians,” al-Halabi said.
“And the second concern is that what will happen after that? Who will replace ISIS, especially that the regime is ready to take control of ISIS’ areas?”