Britain to fly spy drones over Syria

UK parliament authorizes the government to conduct military operations in Iraq only

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Britain said on Tuesday that its drones deployed to counter ISIS militants in Iraq will also operate in the Syrian airspace for intelligence gathering.

British parliament had authorized air strikes in Iraq, where Tornado fighter jets are part of an international operation conducting bombing raids on ISIS group targets, but not in Syria.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said both Reaper drones and Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft would fly over Syria as part of “efforts to protect our national security from the terrorist threat emanating from there.”

“Reapers are not authorized to use weapons in Syria and, alongside Rivet Joint, will provide vital situational awareness making it an invaluable asset to the coalition allies who are combating ISIL,” ministry of Defence said in a statement on its website.

Reuters said a defense ministry spokeswoman was unable to immediately clarify whether that meant ministerial approval or a vote in parliament.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond announced last week that unmanned Reaper drones were being re-deployed from Afghanistan to the Middle East.

During the debate on strikes against targets in Iraq last month, Prime Minister David Cameron said he would return to parliament to seek fresh permission if it was necessary to extend the action to Syria.

But he also stressed that it could go ahead without a parliamentary vote in the event of an urgent humanitarian situation.

As well as sending eight jets which are flying sorties out of Cyprus, Britain is supplying weapons, ammunition and training to Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

The ISIS group controls large areas of territory in Iraq and Syria, where it has declared an Islamic “caliphate,” prompting a U.S.-led coalition to launch air strikes which have so far lasted several months.

[With AFP, Reuters]