The defence secretary has urged MPs to consider fighting the Islamic State (IS) ‘at source’ by launching air strikes on militant targets in Syria.

Michael Fallon said that no action would be taken without a consensus from MPs in Westminster, but his comments prepared the ground for further discussion on UK military involvement on the conflict that has grown to cover much of Syria and Iraq.

The RAF currently provides air surveillance in Iraq, and has targeted IS militants with a series of air strikes in Iraqi territory in the last year. However, until now the UK has refrained from joining the US-led coalition in targeting IS sites in Syria.

Interim Labour leader Harriet Harman has said that IS must be “stopped” and that the party would not block a serious proposal from the government on air strikes in Syria like it did in 2013. These actions stopped the coalition government from launching air strikes against military targets of embattled Syria president Bashar al-Assad, which resulted in the US losing enthusiasm for the campaign.

In 2013, Labour leader Ed Miliband said he feared what would fill the vacuum created by destroying the Syrian regime, after seeing the chaos in Libya since the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. However, the lack of international support for moderate rebels, while Islamist groups such as IS and al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra were generously funded by backers in the Gulf and beyond, has meant that over the past two years the moderate rebels have been squeezed out.

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