U.S.-led forces conducted 15 airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq since Thursday, concentrating on targets near Ramadi, the city that
recently fell to the insurgents, the U.S. military said Friday.
During the same period, forces conducted five airstrikes in Syria, hitting targets near Al Hasakah, Dayr Az Zawr and Kobani, according to a statement.
It said five airstrikes near Ramadi destroyed Islamic State armored vehicles, tanks, personnel carriers and improvised explosive devices and also hit a tactical unit.
The coalition conducted strikes near the Iraqi cities of Al Asad, Haditha, Mosul and Sinjar, as well.
Iraqi VP criticism
Earlier Friday, Iraq Vice President Ayad Allawi criticized as ineffective the campaign of airstrikes by a U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State militants.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Jordan Friday, Allawi said the coalition "meets and then retreats" and has no strategy. He said he has asked Iraqi leaders to put together a strategy for defeating the Islamic State group and present it to the coalition.
The comments come days after Islamic State gained control of Ramadi.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday that U.S. President Barack Obama has been very candid about the fact that the battle against Islamist extremists is a problem that will require a long-term solution.
Earnest said thousands of airstrikes that have been carried out. "Based on the current trajectory and areas of success we are seeing, we would expect ISIL to sustain additional degradation," he said, referring to an acronym for the Islamic State group.
In an interview published Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama insisted the war against the jihadist group is not being lost.
"There’s no doubt there was a tactical setback, although Ramadi had been vulnerable for a very long time, primarily because these are not Iraqi security forces that we have trained or reinforced,” Obama said in an interview with news magazine The Atlantic.
Islamic State made further inroads toward its goal of creating a transnational caliphate on Friday, seizing the last border crossing between Syria and Iraq that was held by the Damascus government, according to the Britain-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
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The Observatory said the al-Qaida affiliated al-Nusra Front had taken "complete control" of a hospital on the outskirts of Jisr al-Shughour.
Dozens of government soldiers and others had been holed up inside the hospital since late April.
Key town lost
Last month, al-Nusra took control of Jisr al-Shughour, a key town that had been one of the government's last strongholds in Idlib province and considered strategically important because of its proximity to the Mediterranean coastal areas that form the heartland of President Bashar al-Assad's minority Alawite sect.
Also, the Islamic State group this week forced government troops out of the ancient city of Palmyra, putting its irreplaceable 2,000-year-old artifacts at risk of destruction.
Palmyra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the U.N. agency's chief Irina Bokova calls it "the birthplace of human civilization." If Islamic State fighters destroy its antiquities, she said it would be an "enormous loss to humanity."
The militants consider statues and other antiquities to be blasphemous. They received international condemnation earlier this year when they took bulldozers to historic ruins in the Iraqi city of Nimrud and smashed priceless idols in Mosul.
On Friday, the Britain-based Observatory said Islamic State fighters have killed 17 men in Palmyra and that it has unconfirmed reports of the killing of dozens more.
Calls for Syria peace deal
French President Francois Hollande called Friday for a new international push for a peace deal in Syria, saying the fall of Palmyra to Islamic State showed President Bashar al-Assad was gravely weakened.
"With a regime that is clearly weakened, and with a Bashar al-Assad who cannot be the future of Syria, we must build a new Syria which can be rid, naturally, of the regime and Bashar al-Assad but also, above all, of the terrorists," Hollande said, adding that Russia and the United States should be involved. "We should do all we can so that a political solution can be worked on, prepared, in the coming weeks."
Aru Pande contributed to this report from the White House. Some material for this report came from AP and Reuters.