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Britain says its pilots conducted Syria airstrikes

Residents inspect a damaged site after what activists said was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Old Aleppo, Syria

British pilots have participated in airstrikes over Syria on the behalf of allies such as the United States and Canada, the Ministry of Defence said on Friday.

Prime Minister David Cameron failed to get approval from lawmakers in 2013 for military action in Syria, though Britain conducts regular attacks in neighbouring Iraq.

“UK military personnel embedded with the USA, French and Canadian armed forces have been authorised to deploy with their units to participate in coalition operations against ISIL,” the ministry said in a response to a freedom of information request from a human rights group, Reprieve.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said that while Britain was not conducting air strikes, some British personnel had acted for allies.

“We do have a long-standing embed programme with allies, where small numbers of UK personnel act under the command of host nations. That has been the case in Syria,” the spokesman said.

“When embedded, UK personnel are effectively operating as foreign troops,” the spokesman said.

It is unclear why British military personnel were allowed to participate in such missions given the 2013 vote by British lawmakers against military action.

“There is an element of sophistry going on here,” John Baron, a lawmaker from Cameron’s Conservative Party, told the BBC. “What this does show is, at the very minimum, an insensitivity to parliament’s will.”

Earlier this month, Cameron asked lawmakers to consider whether Britain should also join US-led air strikes in Syria.

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