AYE, Jordan — After Jordanian warplanes carried out airstrikes Thursday against the Islamic State in Syria, the fighter jets returned to perform a teeth-rattling “victory lap” above this farm town that has been cloaked in grief.
Soon after Jordan’s King Abdullah II arrived here to offer his condolences to the family of Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, a pilot slain by the Islamic State, the jet fighters streaked overhead. Their arrival was good theater or good timing, or both.
The message was delivered. Abdullah pointed to the sky, touched his heart and leaned in to speak privately to the father of the airman, who was shown being burned alive in a cage in video released Tuesday.
As the roar subsided, the mourners cheered, “Long live his majesty the king!” Local youths stood and told Abdullah that they wanted to join his army and die as martyrs, too.
That was the mood here less than 48 hours after Jordan was shocked by the macabre video, which showed the captured Royal Jordanian Air Force pilot writhing in mortal agony after Islamic State militants doused him with a liquid and set him on fire.
We want war, the mourners said. We want revenge, said those here who just a week ago were pleading with the king to withdraw from a U.S.-led air campaign against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and to agree to a prisoner swap to free the Jordanian captive.
“The government is in a difficult spot. We see this. We can feel this,” said Yahyah al-Kaseasbeh, a distant uncle of the dead pilot. “Jordan has a long history of respecting its neighbors, of minding its own business. That must be balanced against the national mood, and that mood is: Kill the monsters.”
Ehab al-Kaseasbeh, 26, a cousin of the pilot, applauded the sound of F-16s overhead.
“The king has promised, before God and the Jordanian people, that we will burn the Islamic State as they burned our martyr,” he said.
Abdullah and the air force began to make good on his promise of revenge on Thursday with aerial strikes against Islamic State targets. Late in the day, Jordan Armed Forces released videotapes of airstrikes and photographs of what appear to be missiles with hand-written messages to Islamic State: “Islam will soon be free of you!” and “For our hero the martyr Muath!”
In a press statement carried by the state-run Jordan news agency, Petra, the Jordan Armed Forces announced said “tens” of Jordanian fighter jets hit ISIS targets, “destroying” training centers and weapons silos used by the jihadist group.
Jordan did not reveal the location of the strikes, but the father of the slain pilot said the king told him Jordan had bombed Raqqa, the Islamic State’s main stronghold in Syria.
The jets “rocked the cowardly terrorists in their holes and hideouts since the morning,” Jordan’s foreign minister, Nasser Judeh, posted on his Twitter account.
Rami Abdulrahman, a pseudonomyn used by the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said there were reports — and later photographs — of about 20 large explosions from airstrikes near Hasaka, about 100 miles northeast of Raqqa. It was unclear who carried out the attacks.
With its boasts of aerial strikes and threats to deploy special forces or even ground troops inside Syria, Jordan appears ready to wade more deeply into the nearly four-year-old conflict there.
Since September, Western-allied Jordan has taken part in the U.S.-led air attacks against the Islamic State, which holds wide territory in Iraq and Syria. But the vast public outrage after the video could lead Jordan to take a higher profile in the international coalition.
Abdullah had previously avoided direct threats against the Islamic State and has sought to keep secret the number of bombing missions the country’s air force has flown over Syria. But on Wednesday, he promised “relentless” strikes upon Islamic State fighters in “their own homes.”
According to the State Department, 943 of the 1,022 airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria as of Wednesday were carried out by U.S. aircraft, with just 79 sorties mounted by other coalition partners, which include Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Australia.
During his visit to a mourning tent in Aye, on the outskirts of the ancient city of Karak about 80 miles south of Amman, Abdullah did not speak publicly.
The tent was overflowing with hundreds of somber guests who quietly smoked and fingered prayer beads. There were rows of lean, fit Jordanian paratroopers, as well as dozens of gray-haired Jordanian generals. Most of Jordan’s parliament attended. The lawmakers sat beside local farmers who arrived in dusty old suit jackets.
Welcoming the king, Kaseasbeh’s father vowed that Jordan would stand “united” in its wider war against the “criminal and monstrous” Islamic State.
“Muath was just one of my sons,” Safi al-Kaseasbeh told the king. “I have three others ready to serve to protect our national soil.”
It would be hard to find a family here that does not have a son serving in the military. For generations, the sons of the southern deserts of Jordan have served in the armies of the Hashemite monarchs.
With limited opportunities in the private sector, army service is also a ticket to a middle-class life for many Jordanians, especially members of the large and influential tribes that serve as the backbone of support for the monarchy.
“You cannot fear for your sons when duty calls them to act,” said Mohammad al-Saud, 50, a veteran who has five sons serving in the army and border patrol. “We are on the edge of war. We might see many more martyrs before this is over.”
Jordan also seemed ready to fight the Islamic State in a war of images and words. On Thursday evening, authorities released an al-Qaeda cleric who has been one of the Islamic State’s most outspoken critics.
The country’s state security court freed Assam al-Barqawi, a former al-Qaeda spiritual leader who has issued multiple fatwas, or religious edicts, denouncing the Islamic State as “deviants” of Islam and encouraging its members to defect.
Barqawi’s statements denouncing the Islamic State have earned him death threats from the movement’s supporters in Jordan.
Hugh Naylor in Beirut contributed to this report.