Australia will permanently resettle 12,000 refugees from Syria, and begin air strikes on Islamic State targets within the week, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has announced.

Speaking a short time after Coalition MPs met in Canberra on Wednesday to discuss the government's policy, Mr Abbott described the commitment to take in 12,000 refugees as one of the world's largest to date.

He said women, children and families from persecuted minorities sheltering in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey would take priority.

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