The Belgian Government has reportedly decided to extend its air strikes against IS into Syria, marking the next phase of the country’s contribution to the international coalition effort.

The Belgian Ministry of Defence plans to send F-16 fighter aircraft to conduct air strikes against the organisation.
Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel’s spokesperson, Barend Leyts, was cited by The New York Times as saying that the air strikes will be conducted as part of a partnership between Belgium and the Netherlands.

The decision follows suicide bomb attacks at the airport and a metro station in Brussels in March. With this extension of operations, Belgium will join with countries including the US, Canada, France, Arab countries, Turkey and Australia to fight against IS in Syria.

Belgium first joined the coalition to carry out air strikes against IS in Iraq in 2014. However, it exited the initiative in July 2015 citing the unsustainable financial costs of continuing operations.

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter backed Belgium’s decision to expand its role in the fight against IS.

“Belgium is an important member of the coalition, and this contribution comes at a key moment in the campaign,” he said. “Belgian aircraft played a crucial role in the air campaign over Iraq from October 2014 to June 2015.

“As they return to Operation Inherent Resolve as part of a scheduled rotation with the Dutch military, Belgian F-16s will now operate with greater flexibility and coherence of effort as a result of the decision to conduct strikes in Syria as well.”