Iraqi warplanes pounded Islamic State positions in eastern Syria with deadly airstrikes Thursday, the Iraqi government said.
The Iraqi army and Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) stationed in the bordering province of Anbar have fired rockets at IS pockets in Syria in the past, but the airstrikes were the first by Iraq in its neighboring country.
"Conducting airstrikes against IS gangs in the Syrian territory is due to the threat of these gangs to Iraqi soil, and demonstrates the increased capabilities of our courageous armed forces in the pursuit and elimination of terrorism," a statement from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office read.
The statement said Iraqi F-16 planes conducted the airstrikes based on orders from Abadi and in coordination with the Syrian government.
The Iraqi defense ministry said the strikes targeted IS gatherings in the town of Hajin, south of Deir el-Zour along the Euphrates River in Syria. Raw video footage and images published by the ministry showed Iraqi jets darting through the sky and, in a separate video, dropping a bomb on a building.
The ministry said the operation was planned and carried out by the Iraqi Joint Operations Command, based on intelligence provided by the U.S.-led coalition.
A statement from the coalition said the airstrikes demonstrated Iraq's commitment to destroying remnants of the Islamic State terror group in the region.
"This operation highlights the capabilities of Iraq's armed forces to aggressively pursue Daesh [IS] and to maintain their country's internal security," said U.S. Marine Corps Brigadier General Robert B. Sofge, deputy commanding general of the coalition's operations.
IS has lost most of its territory in Syria and was declared defeated in Iraq last December. But its remnants are taking refuge across the vast border region between Iraq and Syria and carry out periodic terror attacks.