German lawmakers voted Friday to provide military assistance in the fight against Islamic State in Syria.
By an overwhelming majority of 445 votes in favor and 146 against, the parliament approved the mission.
Germany will send reconnaissance aircraft, a refueling aircraft, and a frigate to protect the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle off the Syrian coast, but Germany will not engage in active combat.
“It’s a matter of responsibility to take action,” both militarily and diplomatically, Norbert Roettgen, a member of Merkel’s party who heads parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said in a floor speech before the vote, according to Bloomberg. “We’ve watched long enough.”
According to the BBC, the German army said the forces will operate, “in and over Syria where [Islamic State] is operating, on the territory of states whose governments have given approval [to Germany], in the eastern Mediterranean, Gulf, Red Sea and adjoining seas.”
But the opposition is uneasy about this military mission abroad and fears it will increase the risk of terror attacks in Germany. Some critics say the conflict could escalate, and that Western attacks could strengthen support for Islamic State.
Germany has been arming Iraqi Kurds, who are fighting Islamic State on the ground, since last year. The decision to arm the Kurds marked a major change in policy by Germany, which traditionally did not allow weapons transfers to conflict zones.
In the wake of the Paris attacks which killed 130 people on November 13th, many Western leaders have been under extreme pressure to accelerate and intensify the fight against the jihadist group.
The Germans aren't the only ones making changes to their strategy against Islamic State. The British Parliament on Thursday voted to participate in the US-led international campaign of airstrikes against the militant group in Syria.
This week, President Obama agreed to send as many as 100 special forces into Iraq, with a mandate to carry out raids inside Syria, after repeatedly ruling out the use of "boots on the ground."
Germany's announcement came as French President François Hollande visited the Charles de Gaulle, which has launched raids against Islamic State bases since November. France announced it was deploying the warship, the country’s only aircraft carrier, to the region a week before the Paris attacks.
In addition to the US, France, Turkey and the UK, the coalition forces have included Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
Germany’s mission is estimated to cost around €134 million ($145 million) over the coming year.