Activists say abandoned ISIL bases hit in city suburbs with no civilians or fighters as France carries out air strikes.
French journalist Nicolas Henin, once an ISIL captive, says the armed rebel group wanted “nothing more than to provoke an escalation” by carrying out a series of deadly attacks in Paris last Friday that killed at least 129 people.
In an interview with Al Jazeera on Tuesday, the reporter – who was held for 10 months and released in 2014 – added that France’s recent air strikes following the attacks “are actually helping” the group’s propaganda.
Air strikes, which have intensified since Friday, empower the group’s standing in Syria by making the local Syrian population feel vulnerable, and therefore more likely to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, also known as ISIS, he argued.
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“ISIS, by striking us on French soil, wanted nothing than to provoke an escalation,” the journalist said. “As a result, it’s obvious what it was looking for was not for France to withdraw from the coalition striking it in Syria, but the opposite. It wanted to cause further escalation in the military involvement of France.”
Henin was kidnapped in Syria in 2013 and held for 10 months with about 20 others.
He was handcuffed together with American reporter Jim Foley for one week of his capture.
Foley would become the first American to be beheaded, in August 2014. But by then, Henin and three fellow Frenchmen had been released.
“What it [ISIL] was willing is what President Hollande is giving it – more air strikes – it is interested in air strikes. This military intervention confirms its propaganda.
“These air strikes are actually helping ISIS propaganda. They allow it to tell the Syrian population, especially in Raqqa, that they are being trapped in the city, that they are being pounded by the air forces of so many countries.”
On Tuesday, French defence officials said that, for the second time in less than 24 hours, fighter jets targeted Raqqa, the de-facto capital of ISIL in northern Syria.
“[Air strikes are] confirming its propaganda and its message, saying ‘We are the only strong body capable to protect you because the rest of the world is against you. We are here, we can protect you because we are powerful.’ This is the confirmation of the message that it is sending.”