Egyptian warplanes have bombed ISIS strongholds in the neighboring country of Libya.

Egypt’s air force bombed ISIS targets in Libya at dawn on Monday, a day after the militant group released a video purporting to show the execution of 21 Egyptian Copts there.

“Your armed forces on Monday carried out focused air strikes in Libya against Daesh camps, places of gathering and training, and weapons depots,” the military said in a statement, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

It was the first time Egypt confirmed launching air strikes against the group in neighboring Libya, suggesting President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is ready to escalate his battle against militants seeking to topple his government.

The airstrikes killed 50 militants and destroyed training bases and weapons stockpiles.

Egyptian Copts featured in the video that preceded the strikes had been working in Libya and were kidnapped over the course of 2 months, then beheaded by the terror group.

Shortly before the jets took off, Egypt’s President Abdel el-Sisi said Cairo “reserved the right to respond in any way” to the butchery.

Sisi warned that Cairo would choose the “necessary means and timing to avenge the criminal killings” as he spoke on state television in the wake of the surfaced footage of the brutal executions.

A caption on the five-minute video read: “The people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian church.”

Before the killings, one of the militants stood with a knife in his hand and said: “Safety for you crusaders is something you can only wish for.”

The Coptic Church confirmed that 21 Egyptian Christians believed to have been held by IS are dead, Egypt’s state news agency MENA reported.

It looks like the timing of the retaliation was immediate.

I noted that Sisi has been gearing up to rapidly expand his country’s military strength, especially to protect the country’s Suez Canal. Sisi’s robust response was likely something he had already planned, as ISIS incursions into Egypt have been a problem for some time.

Russia, developing an even closer relationship with the “Land of the Nile”, has already jumped in with offers of military assistance; and France, from whom Egyptian officials had recently requested a massive loan for arms and munitions, is joining Egypt in calling for a UN Security Council meeting to address the threat of ISIS in Libya and the rest of the Middle East.

Meanwhile, an official state of mourning has been declared, to last for seven days. Egypt is also preparing to airlift its citizens out of Libya, if necessary.

Sisi is the first Egyptian President to visit a Coptic church since Nasser and has called on a reformation of Islam, so he was more apt to act on these killings than the previous head of state, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi. However, many Copts were complaining about the weak response after the initial kidnappings:

Villagers accused the Egyptian government of doing little to help the captives. The authorities, they say, were able to free Muslim Egyptians abducted in Libya in recent months but have done nothing to save the 21 because they are Christian — an accusation rooted in the deep sense of religious discrimination felt by most Egyptian Copts.

I suspect the Copts today are thrilled that Sisi has acted so swiftly to bring justice to the villains who murdered their Christian prisoners. Sisi did more than take selfies in the wake of such horrific slaughter of Egyptian nationals.