US, partners begin airstrikes in Syria

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The US and five Arab countries have begun airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria, according to the Pentagon. (SITE)

The U.S. and five Arab countries have begun airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria, according to the Pentagon.

"I can confirm that U.S. military and partner nation forces are undertaking military action against ISIL (ISIS) terrorists in Syria using a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles," Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said. "Given that these operations are ongoing, we are not in a position to provide additional details at this time. The decision to conduct theses strikes was made earlier today by the U.S. Central Command commander under authorization granted him by the commander in chief. We will provide more details later as operationally appropriate."

U.S. officials said the airstrikes began around 5:30 p.m. PT. The first wave of strikes finished about 90 minutes later, but the operation was expected to continue for several more hours, according to one U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly by name about an ongoing mission.

Syria's foreign ministry says the U.S. informed Damascus' envoy to the United Nations before launching airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Syria.

The strikes are part of the expanded military campaign that President Barack Obama's authorized nearly two weeks ago in order to disrupt and destroy the Islamic State militants, who have slaughtered thousands of people, beheaded Westerners, including two American journalists, and captured a large swath of territory stretching from within Syria to land across northern and Western Iraq.

A U.S. official tells ABC News that up to 20 locations have been targeted in the airstrike. They are mainly in Raqqa, while others are in broader areas east and south of that city in the large area west of the border with Iraq. At least one ship in the Red Sea has fired Tomahawk missiles. The source says Arab nations participating in the airstrikes will be dropping bombs.

"In the coming years, we're going to write books about a different type of warfare based on what we're seeing here tonight," Retired Lt. Col. Hal Kempfer of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve said.

A diplomatic source tells ABC News that Arab countries Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE are taking part in airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria. President Obama is expected to ask even more countries to join the coalition when he speaks to the United Nations this week.

Military leaders have said about two-thirds of the estimated 31,000 Islamic State militants were in Syria.

Kempfer says it's significant that the U.S. is partnering on these air strikes with Arab countries.

"This is the U.S. taking a leadership role with other Middle Eastern countries going after a violent extremist movement that has become a major threat to the region and to the world," Kempfer said. "That's a very, very different statement from what we've seen in the past."

The U.S. is also launching a new pilot program to stop potential American ISIS sympathizers. The effort is to stop the U.S.-Jihad pipeline will first focus on Boston, Minneapolis and Los Angeles.

"These programs will bring together community representatives, public safety officials, religious leaders and the U.S. attorneys to improve local engagement, to counter violent extremism, and, ultimately, to build a broad network of community partnerships to keep our nation safe," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said.

On Monday, ISIS followers in Algeria posted a video of a 55-year-old French citizen who they say they kidnapped. Those kidnappers threatened to behead the man in 24 hours unless the French stopped its bombings of ISIS positions in Iraq.

The U.S. military has been launching targeted airstrikes in Iraq since August, focusing specifically on attacks to protect U.S. interests and personnel, assist Iraqi refugees and secure critical infrastructure. Last week, as part of the newly expanded campaign, the U.S. began going after militant targets across Iraq, including enemy fighters, outposts, equipment and weapons.

The militant group, meanwhile, has threatened retribution. Its spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, said in a 42-minute audio statement released Sunday that the fighters were ready to battle the U.S.-led military coalition and called for attacks at home and abroad.

ABC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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