The Pentagon said the United States hit Islamic State group targets in Iraq and Syria with 17 airstrikes on Christmas Day.
The strikes targeting Islamic State fighters, facilities and vehicles were carried out by fighter aircraft, bombers and remotely controlled aircraft. The Pentagon said Saturday that five of the strikes were carried out in Syria and 12 in Iraq.
The strikes targeted Islamic State tunnels, explosive manufacturing sites and other targets such as bridges and Islamic State fighting outposts.
All US aircraft returned safely.
The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation that is designed to target the Islamic State group.
The Islamic State group on Saturday released a new message purportedly from its reclusive leader, claiming that his self-styled ‘caliphate’ is doing well despite an unprecedented alliance against it and criticizing the recently announced Saudi-led Islamic military coalition against terrorism.
In the 24-minute audio, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi said airstrikes by the international coalition only increase his group’s determination and resolve. The message was al-Baghdadi’s first since May, and comes amid battlefield setbacks that IS has recently faced.
Meanwhile, a U.S.-backed coalition of rebels in Syria – including Syrian Kurdish, Arab and Christian groups – captured a major dam on the Euphrates River from the Islamic State group as part of the coalition’s march on IS-held areas in northern Syria.
The coalition, known as Syria Democratic Forces, announced earlier this week a new offensive aimed at cutting supply lines between IS strongholds in the country’s north. The SDF said it seized the Tishrin Dam, which supplies much off northern Syria with electricity, on Saturday.