The United States and its Arab allies have intensified airstrikes against oil refineries controlled by the Islamic State group in eastern Syria, killing at least 14 jihadits and five civilians in overnight hits, a monitoring group said on Thursday.
The strikes, launched by the US and its Arab allies earlier this week, targeted oil installations in the eastern provinces of Deir al-Zour and al-Hasakah on Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
The Islamic State, which seized all major oilfields and installations in Deir al-Zour starting in July, uses oil revenues to fund its war machine.
US Central Command described the strikes as a major coup against the al-Qaeda breakaway group. Hitting the fields successfully choked off a source of revenue which generates about 2 million dollars per day, it said.
The bombardments also targeted facilities manned by the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front in eastern Syria, according to activists.
More than 150 people, mostly jihadists, have been killed by the US-led airstrikes in Syria since the aerial campaign started on Tuesday, the Observatory reported.
The dead include at least 84 from the Islamic State, 57 from the al-Nusra Front, and 13 civilians, Rami Abdel-Rahman, the head of the Britain-based Observatory, said.
Only 12 of the dead fighters were Syrian nationals, while the rest were foreigners, according to Abdel-Rahman.
On Wednesday, the United Nations adopted a resolution obliging member states to prevent their nationals joining jihadists in Syria and neighbouring Iraq.
Some 15,000 foreign fighters from 80 countries – including 2,000 Westerners – have joined the ranks of Islamic extremist fighters, US officials have said.
The Islamic State has consolidated its territorial gains in Iraq since June.
In August, the US started airstrikes in northern Iraq after the al-Qaeda splinter group targeted minority Christians and Yezidis, coming close to Erbil, the capital city of the autonomous region of Kurdistan.
France joined the air campaign in Iraq last week, but ruled out involvement in the US-led military action in Syria.
French jets carried out further strikes on Thursday against the Islamic State in northern Iraq, the government announced. The move came a day after the beheading of a French hostage by an Algerian affiliate of the jihadist group.
“Indeed, I can confirm that there were strikes this morning by French planes in Iraq,” government spokesman Stephane Le Foll told reporters after a meeting between President Francois Hollande with his security cabinet.
The strikes mark the second time France has participated in the Iraqi part of the aerial campaign against the terrorist group. The last time was on September 19.
The French government announced that flags would be lowered to half-mast at official buildings from Friday until Sunday in memory of slain hostage Herve Gourdel.
The self-styled Jund al-Khalifa (The Caliph’s Soldiers), had threatened in a video Monday to kill him unless France ended its strikes against Islamic State.
Gourdel was the first French hostage to be executed by the Islamic State or a group acting in its name.
The Islamic State’s territorial expansion in Syria and Iraq has sparked international fears that it could carve out a regional militant enclave.
Earlier this week, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that more than 50 countries agreed to join an international coalition to fight the radical Sunni group.
On Thursday, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen arrived in northern Iraq just hours ahead of the start of arms deliveries from Germany to the region to help in the fight against the Islamic State.
During her surprise visit to Erbil, she met with President Massoud Barzani, who said Kurdistan needs sophisticated weapons, according to independent Iraqi site Alsumaria News.
“All weapons provided for Kurdistan are traditional,” Barzani said without elaborating following talks with the German official.
The first German weapons delivered to Kurdistan on Thursday include 50 portable anti-tank rocket launchers and ammunition, 520 G3 rifles and 20 machine guns
Last month, Germany broke a national taboo about sending arms to international conflict zones by providing military equipment to the Kurds in northern Iraq.