AMMAN — Jordan’s air force chief said on Sunday his country’s jet fighters had conducted 56 bombing raids in three days against Islamic State militants in northeast Syria, targeting key bases and arms depots.
Jordan stepped up its bombing of the jihadist group on Thursday in response to the brutal killing by Islamic State of a captured Jordanian pilot, and continued until Saturday.
No new strikes were announced for Sunday.
Meanwhile, the United States delivered more than $25 million of military aid including heavy artillery to the Lebanese army on Sunday to help it fight jihadist groups which have repeatedly battled with security forces near the Syrian border.
The U.S. ambassador to Beirut, David Hale, said in a statement the weapons would be used to “defeat the terrorist and extremist threat from Syria.”
“We are fighting the same enemy, so our support for you has been swift and continuous,” Hale said at an event marking the delivery of the weapons in Beirut.
Gen. Mansour al-Jbour, head of the Jordanian air force, told a news conference, “We achieved what we aimed for. We destroyed logistics centers, arms depots and targeted hideouts of their fighters.”
Jordan has carried out nearly a fifth of the sorties of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State in Syria to date, Jbour said. U.S. aircraft joined the mission to provide intelligence and surveillance, a U.S. official told Reuters earlier on Sunday.
The raids had “degraded” nearly 20 percent of the militants’ capabilities, he said.
Jbour said the main aims of the bombing would continue to be to try to hit Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to stop the group’s illicit oil trade, and to destroy their training bases, garrisons and command centers.
“We are determined to wipe them from the face of the Earth,” the general said.
At least 7,000 militants had been killed in the last few weeks of coalition bombing, he said.
Jordan’s King Abdullah has vowed to avenge the killing of pilot Mouath al-Kasaesbeh and has ordered his commanders to prepare for a bigger military role in the international coalition fighting Islamic State.
Many Jordanians fear greater involvement could trigger a backlash by hardline militants inside the kingdom.
Jordanian military experts say the kingdom could soon struggle to sustain the intensity of the past few days of air strikes, given the air force only has 40 F16 jets at its disposal.
A squadron of F16 jet fighters from the United Arab Emirates arrived in Jordan on Sunday a day after the Gulf state announced it was being sent to bolster the coalition’s military effort.
It will conduct joint air strikes with Jordanian colleagues against the Islamic militants, Jordanian officials said on Saturday.