All US and European coalition strike and surveillance flights against ISIS forces in Syria and Iraq under Operation Inherent Resolve have been reaching their targets through the skies of Israel and Jordan, US, European and civilian monitors of global air force movements report. The bodies engaged in minute-by-minute observations of the movements of military strike and refueling craft across the world have released detailed images mapping those routes. They reveal that US and European warplanes are refueling at two points over the Mediterranean Sea before entering Israeli airspace.
They are using two corridors (see attached map) which run over central and northern Israel.
In the first, US planes reach high altitudes over an area just north of Tel Aviv and head east to pass over Jordan to reach Iraq. They are focusing of late on striking ISIS-Al Qaeda-occupied sites in the Anbar Province of western Iraq and the Euphrates basin.
The Islamists have taken to hiding newly established bases in the dense river bank vegetation, from where they are almost impossible to detect by military and spy satellites.
The second US air corridor runs over Haifa Bay, then east over the Jezreel Valley and thence to Hama at the southern tip of the Golan, where the Israeli, Jordanian and Syrian borders converge. The next lap takes the assault fleet into eastern Syria to strike ISIS forces at Abu Kemal and Deir A-Zor and other locations on Syria’s eastern border with Iraq.
The US air force turned to the Israeli route to Syria after Jordan’s King Abdullah declined to provide access over his realm to coalition warplanes bent on striking jihadist targets in Syria. He only permitted them to fly over his kingdom to Iraq, with permission from Baghdad.
Neither Washington, Jerusalem nor Amman are willing to confirm or deny that these trajectories are being used for reaching ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq – although several military websites have made such data public with detailed maps.
The US and Israel have opted for reticence out of three considerations:
1. Reluctance to reveal that Israel and Jordan are partners in Operation Inherent Resolve;
2. Equally embarrassing would be the disclosure that the use of their air space was subject to the permission of the Israeli and Jordanian governments;
3. The scale of the operation also needs to be kept under wraps: US air strikes are managed from three commands: US Central Command in Tampa, Florida; its forward command at the US Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar; and NATO Headquarters in Brussels, which coordinates US and European air operations with the Middle East air forces taking part in the mission against ISIS.
DEBKAfile’s military sources note that, notwithstanding the broad scale of the coalition air offensive against ISIS, to which 20 countries are contributing more than 200 aircraft, its achievements are unimpressive to say the least.
Although official communiqués refer to scores of air strikes (55 at the end of last week), less than 10 strikes per day are actually taking place. This is far below the intensity required for re-tilting the military balance against the Islamists.
The only noteworthy gain to come out of this grand offensive is the decision taken by ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdad to draw a line against expanding his territorial conquests in Syria and Iraq in order to save his organization from further losses from US and allied air strikes. He has determined to focus now on stabilizing and shoring up his gains. ISIS has thus shifted from a strategy of expansion to one of defense.