[JURIST] France's government on Sunday announced [Reuters report] that it has launched its first airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS) [JURIST backgrounder] in Syria. The attack targeted an IS training camp in order to prevent attacks against French interests in Syria and also to protect Syrian civilians. Up until this point, France had only attacked IS targets in the neighboring country of Iraq, and has only contributed three percent of the total airstrikes carried out by the US-led coalition against IS. France's government has said in the past [BBC report] that international laws prevented it from carrying out attacks in Syria, and maintained that it would do nothing to help the Syrian government. However, France has now acknowledged that getting rid of President Bashar al-Assad [BBC profile] is no longer the top priority, as combating IS is now the main objective.
IS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has caused increasing international alarm over its human rights abuses [JURIST report] since its insurgence into Syria and Iraq in 2013. In August Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) condemned [JURIST report] the destruction of Palmyra's ancient temple of Baalshamin by IS militants, labeling it a war crime. In March the UN released a report saying that other actions by IS may be war crimes [JURIST report]. In February the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights jointly released a report [JURIST report] detailing violations against Iraqi civilians under the spread of IS. Also in February IS led suicide bombings in eastern Libya, killing at least 40 people [JURIST report] and injuring 70 more. IS said this was the group's way of retaliating against Egyptian airstrikes protesting the IS presence in Northern Africa.