The strikes focus on Raqqa, the de facto capital of ISIS' self-declared Islamic state
Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain take part, the U.S. military says
"It's a remarkable diplomatic achievement," says a CNN political commentator
Pentagon: The sites hit include training compounds, headquarters, storage facilities
The United States and several Arab nations carried out airstrikes against ISIS in Syria early Tuesday, intensifying the campaign against the Islamic militant group.
Tomahawk missiles launched from the sea began the strikes against the Sunni Muslim extremists, followed by bombers and fighters.
Here are answers to key questions about the new phase in the conflict with ISIS:
Which areas were hit?
The bombing has focused on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, a city in northern Syria. ISIS has had control of Raqqa for more than a year, imposing its brutal interpretation of Islamic law on the city’s residents.
The extremists have made the city, which sits on the banks of the Euphrates River, the de facto capital of their self-declared “Islamic State” that stretches across large areas of Syria and Iraq.
ISIS targets around other Syrian cities – Deir Ezzor, Al Hasakah and Abu Kamal – were also hit in the strikes.
What was struck?
The attacks damaged multiple ISIS targets, the U.S. military said, including training compounds, headquarters, storage facilities, supply trucks and armed vehicles.
“Usually the first part of any air campaign are strategic targets – fixed locations, big buildings, things that you don’t need a guy on the ground to laser-designate,” said retired Lt. Col. Rick Francona, an Air Force veteran intelligence officer and CNN military analyst.
The Pentagon also said ISIS fighters were hit in the strikes but didn’t specify how many.
In Raqqa, a building in the governor’s compound, a post office and a recruitment center were among the sites struck, activists reported.
Why is Raqqa a focus of the initial strikes?
The city is known as a place where ISIS houses training centers, weapons depots and accommodations for fighters. During the Syrian conflict, the group has also seized military bases from the Syrian regime near the city and in the wider Raqqa province.
The targets hit by the airstrikes are intended to hurt ISIS’ ability to command and control, resupply and train, a senior U.S. military official told CNN’s Jim Sciutto.
ISIS has made Raqqa the flagship for its model of governance, providing food, fuel and security to people struggling to survive after years of civil war. But it also imposed hardline Islamist law there and metes out harsh punishment to those who don’t follow orders. Locals started calling the city Tora Bora last year, saying it felt as if the Taliban of Afghanistan had taken over.
Who is taking part in the airstrikes?
All the foreign partners participating in the strikes with the United States are Arab countries: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar.
“It’s a remarkable diplomatic achievement,” said CNN Political Commentator Peter Beinhart. “I don’t think it was expected that there would be this much Arab support.”
How long will the attacks go on?
For a while.
The first wave of strikes was expected to last into the early hours of Tuesday morning in Syria, CNN’s Sciutto reported.