Kurds halt latest IS attempt to isolate Kobani

Published October 27th, 2014 - 06:50 GMT

Kurdish forces thwarted a new attempt Sunday by IS fighters to cut off the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, or Kobani, from the border with Turkey as Syrian government airstrikes killed 13 children.

The predawn assault marked the fourth straight day the jihadists had attacked the Syrian side of the border crossing, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Kurdish forces, backed by U.S.-led airstrikes, have been holding out for weeks against an IS offensive around Ain al-Arab, known in Kurdish as Kobani, which has become a high-profile symbol of efforts to stop the jihadist advance.

The U.S. military said in its latest update that American warplanes carried out five airstrikes near Ain al-Arab Saturday and Sunday, destroying seven IS vehicles and an ISIS-held building.

Ground fighting for Ain al-Arab has killed more than 800 people since the IS offensive began on Sept. 16, with the jihadists losing 481 fighters and the Kurds 313, said the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria for its information.

Among the dead are 21 civilians, however the figures exclude IS losses to U.S.-led airstrikes, which the Pentagon has said run to “several hundred.”

The jihadist assault prompted nearly all of the enclave’s population to flee, with some 200,000 refugees streaming over the border into neighboring Turkey.

Last week, under heavy U.S. pressure, Turkey unexpectedly announced it would allow the peshmerga fighters to cross its territory to join the fight for Ain al-Arab.

The main Syrian Kurdish fighting force in the town has close links with the outlawed rebel Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a three-decade insurgency in southeastern Turkey and Ankara had previously resisted calls to allow in reinforcements.

The Kurdish region’s parliament voted last week to deploy some of its peshmerga forces, which have been fighting their own battle against IS in northern Iraq, to Syria.

“Primarily, it will be a backup support with artillery and other weapons,” Kurdistan Regional Government spokesman Safeen Dizayee told Reuters.

“It will not be combat troops as such, at this point anyway.”

The Democratic Union Party (PYD) which dominates Ain al-Arab agreed to the offer of the peshmerga troops.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan charged in comments published Sunday that the “terror” group did not really want the peshmerga forces to deploy to Ain al-Arab for fear of seeing its influence diminished.

“The PYD does not want the peshmerga to come,” Erdogan said. “They don’t want the peshmerga to come to Ain al-Arab and dominate it.

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