French leaders will debate whether to join a U.S.-led coalition conducting airstrikes in Syria to destroy strongholds of the Islamic State group. France was the first European country to openly support the U.S. in conducting airstrikes in Iraq, but had stayed away from Syria until a French national was executed in Algeria by a group supporting ISIS' cause.
A video released on Wednesday by Jund al-Khilafa, a militant group in Algeria, showed the execution of a French tourist, Hervé Gourdel, who was kidnapped earlier this week, and reportedly forced France to reevaluate its stance about intervening in Syria. The country’s officials are set to meet Thursday to discuss future offensives against ISIS and French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Thursday that the government is also working to nab the Algerian militants who conducted the beheading, Associated Press, or AP, reported.
“We already have an important task in Iraq and we will see in the coming days how the situation evolves," Drian said, according to AP, adding: “We are asking the question."
Until now, Paris had specifically said that it would confine its actions to Iraq, but French President Francois Hollande met the president of the Syrian National Coalition at the U.N. General Assembly and reportedly promised more support for the group fighting the Islamic State group in the region. Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius had said that France is no longer hindered by legal barriers in conducting airstikes in Syria, Reuters reported.
"Syria is different. There are two enemies. We are going to focus on strengthening the Syrian opposition, but by striking Islamic State we shouldn't strengthen Assad," Fabius said, according to Reuters, which cited France Info radio, adding: "Strikes have to be carried out, which the Americans are doing, but we also need to denounce Assad who remains a dictator and reinforce the moderate opposition."
"The terrorists want to scare us," Fabius reportedly said, adding: "They are practicing a bloody blackmail which we can't give into. We will not surrender to it."