PARIS (AP) — France will send reconnaissance flights over Syria beginning Tuesday and is considering airstrikes in the fight against the Islamic State group, President Francois Hollande said, calling it necessary to fight against the “terrorism and war” that have left Europe vulnerable to attack.
The United States is leading a coalition of countries that has spent the past year striking at IS militants, weaponry and machinery from the air but has made little progress in meeting President Barack Obama’s goal to “degrade and destroy” the group, which has also beheaded hostages, including some Americans. France, which has feared that hitting at Islamic State would help Syrian President Bashar Assad, had limited its planes to Iraqi airspace until now.
“We have proof that attacks against several countries, notably ours, are being planned,” he said. “Today in Syria what we hope to learn, is what is being planned against us and what is happening to the Syrian population.”
Hollande, however, ruled out ground operations in Iraq and Syria in the wide-ranging news conference on Monday.
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“According to the information that we gather, the intelligence that we collect, we will be ready to strike,” he said.
Hollande said coping with the flow of refugees also requires addressing the problem of terrorism and the reconnaissance flights will help inform airstrikes against the Islamic State group and provide details about Islamic State’s centers for training and decision.
Hollande said resolving Syria’s war will only happen if Assad leaves power.
“Assad, I must remind you, is responsible for the situation in Syria. He is the one who fired on his people during protests. He is the one bombing his people. He is the one who used chemical weapons,” Hollande said.