Thursday, March 25, 1999 Published at 06:32 GMT
UK jets safe after strikes
Explosions light up the Belgrade skyline
Six British Harrier jump jets have returned safely to their Italian base after being involved in Wednesday night's first Nato air strikes on Yugoslavia.
With UK Prime Minister Tony Blair at a European leaders' summit in Berlin, details of British involvement were given in a House of Commons statement by his deputy John Prescott.
Meanwhile, six United States Air Force B-52 bombers flew back to their UK base after taking part in the raids.
"There are times when we have to stand up and fight for peace," he said.
The last of the giant planes returned safely to the base at 2110GMT after firing cruise missiles.
He compared the crews to surgeons, who practice for years, "never wishing for somebody to have to have surgery".
"But when the occasion arises they are ready to use their skills," he added.
The Harrier GR7 jump jets had flown from their base on the Italian Adriatic coast.
It is understood they attacked Serbian attacks in Kosovo, a first taste of combat for the pilots.
A BBC reporter at the Gioia del Colle base said the crews had been "awestruck" at the sight of the explosions on the ground.
"Tonight there will be families in Britain who will be feeling a real sense of anxiety.
Mr Prescott said the first targets had been air defences and "facilities relating to the suppression in Kosovo".
He said what happened next was up to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, but warned MPs there would be "no instant end" to the suffering in Kosovo.
Leader of the Opposition William Hague was concerned about the future of the operation and the possible use of ground troops.
Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown said Nato needed "a clear, definable and achievable political aim" which also indicated when the bombing should stop.
If there was to be no peace agreement the raids should be "seen as a first step towards establishing an international protectorate in Kosovo," he added.
Some Labour MPs attacked Nato's action, saying it had not been endorsed by the UN Security Council or the six-nation Contact Group on Kosovo.
Meanwhile police said up to 400 protesters gathered outside Downing Street to condemn the bombing.
Some were holding flags and banners but there were no arrests or injuries in the peaceful protest.