The Pentagon has announced that U.S. airstrikes have begun in Iraq.
Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement that the “targeted airstrike” occurred at roughly 6:45 a.m. EDT Friday morning and consisted of 500-pound, laser-guided bombs dropped by two F/A-18 aircraft. The attack was on a piece of artillery that the Pentagon says was being used to attack Kurdish forces defending Erbil, where U.S. personnel and a U.S. consulate are located.
A second round of airstrikes targeting ISIS came later Friday morning. At 10 a.m. EDT, a drone hit an ISIS mortar, according to Kirby. A second strike came at approximately 11:20 a.m., conducted by four F/A-18 jets on a convoy of seven ISIS vehicles and a mortar position near Erbil.
CBS reports that ISIS has suffered casualties in the new attacks, and the Pentagon says that ISIS fighters were “successfully eliminated.”
The military action comes after President Obama announced Thursday night that the U.S. had conducted a humanitarian operation to air-drop food and water to thousands of Iraqis under siege by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The United Nations Refugee Agency said it is working with the Iraqi government to establish refugee camps, “but as front lines continue to shift, sites can quickly become insecure.”
National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said that the White House is keeping Congress informed of its actions. “The administration has been consulting closely with Congress about events in Iraq over the past number of weeks and has additionally consulted with Congress on these actions,” she said.
The Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday that it has banned U.S.-operated airlines from flying over Iraq due to the “the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict,” superseding a previous advisory that suspended aircraft from flying below 30,000 feet in Iraqi airspace.
Obama warned Thursday of a possible genocide in Iraq’s northwest, where tens of thousands of Iraqi Yazidi civilians have been stranded for days on a mountaintop, threatened by ISIS forces. On Thursday, the U.S. successfully air-dropped 5,300 gallons of drinking water and 8,000 meals ready-to-eat near Sinjar.
“We can act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide,” Obama said Thursday night.
The AP released raw video Friday morning of Iraqi army troops delivering humanitarian aid to Yazidis:
House Speaker John Boehner issued a statement Friday morning, saying that while the authorization of airstrikes is “appropriate,” he is “dismayed by the ongoing absence of a strategy for countering the grave threat ISIS poses to the region.” Boehner called on Obama to form a “long-term strategy” and said that he is “ready to listen and work” with Obama if such a strategy is put forward.
This story is breaking and will be updated.