France’s President Francois Hollande called on the United States and Russia on Monday to join a global coalition to destroy Islamic State following the attacks in Paris, and hours later French fighter jets launched fresh strikes on targets in Syria.
“France is at war,” Hollande told a joint session of parliament at the Palace of Versailles, promising to increase funds for national security and strengthen anti-terrorism laws in response to the suicide bombings and shootings that killed 129.
“We’re not engaged in a war of civilizations, because these assassins do not represent any. We are in a war against jihadist terrorism which is threatening the whole world,” he told a packed, sombre chamber.
A spokesman for France’s military command told Reuters early on Tuesday that 10 French warplanes, launched from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, had conducted air strikes overnight targeting a command center and a recruitment center for jihadists in the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa.
Parliamentarians had given Hollande a standing ovation before spontaneously singing the “Marseillaise” national anthem in a show of political unity after the worst atrocity France has seen since World War Two.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for Friday’s coordinated attacks, saying they were in retaliation for France’s involvement in U.S.-backed air strikes in Iraq and Syria.
Hollande pledged that France would intensify the assaults on Islamic State, and said he would meet U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the coming days to urge them to pool their resources.
“We must combine our forces to achieve a result that is already too late in coming,” the president said.
The U.S.-led coalition has been bombing Islamic State for more than a year. Russia joined the conflict in September, but Western officials say it has mainly hit foreign-backed fighters battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, not Islamic State.
Speaking in Turkey at the same time as Hollande, Obama called Friday’s attacks a “terrible and sickening setback”, but maintained that the U.S.-led coalition was making progress.
“Even as we grieve with our French friends … we can’t lose sight that there has been progress,” Obama said at a Group of 20 summit, ruling out sending in ground troops.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting Paris to pay respects to those killed in the attacks, said: “Tonight we are all Parisians,” and pledged the United States would stand “shoulder to shoulder” with France. He is due to meet Hollande on Tuesday morning.
Much of France came to a standstill at midday for a minute’s silence to remember the dead, many of whom were young people killed as they enjoyed a night out. Metro trains stopped, pedestrians paused and office workers stood at their desks.
Read more at Reuters