AMMAN , Jordan, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Jordanian fighter planes returned safely from their mission against Islamic State militants, state-run television reported Thursday.
The flights were the first since the execution of captured Jordanian pilot Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh, whose grotesque death by burning united the world in condemnation, and brought a wave of anger and calls for revenge in Jordan.
A government spokesman said the bombing missions involved targets in eastern Syria. Jordan is a member of the coalition, led by the United States, involved in employing air missions against IS without involving ground combat.
The killing of al-Kasasbeh has reinforced the unity of Jordan with the West and in opposition to IS. The country has what is regarded as the eighth-best military in the Middle East, with a $1.5 billion defense budget and 246 available aircraft. It has been a steadfast ally of the United States.
Many within the country have not been convinced Jordan should be part of the coalition, and feel the execution of two convicted terrorists in reciprocity for al-Kasasbeh's death is adequate retaliation. But Jordan is deeply involved in the coalition and pulling back would require a major change in coalition strategy, at the expense of the safety of U.S. pilots.
In mourning the death of al-Kasasbeh, Jordan's King Abdullah II promised an intense response, noting IS is at war with "noble Islam" as well as with Jordan.