ISIL advance in Syria triggers more clashes in Turkey
SURUÇTurkish security forces have resorted to tear gas while trying to stop a group that attempted to cross from Turkey to Syria to help in the defense of the town of Kobane against the advancing militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The incident happened in Suruç town of Şanlıurfa province on Oct. 4 when a group rejected a call from security forces on the border to disperse. As a few members of the group managed to cross the border amid chaotic scenes, security forces fired tear gas cartridges, while some members of the group pelted military vehicles with stones.
As the group in Turkey was dispersed soon afterwards, the Syrian Kurdish militia, or the YPG, engaged
in the first street battles against the ISIL militants across the border in Kobane, according to Doğan News Agency.
ISIL militants heavily shelled the Syrian Kurdish town on Oct. 3 as jihadists prepared an all-out offensive for the strategic site, whose capture would provide a direct link between areas under their control in Aleppo and their stronghold in Raqqa to the east, the Associated Press reported.
The fighting came as Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu pledged his country would do what it could to prevent the fall of Kobane, although he did not spell out what assistance Turkey would provide. Turkey’s parliament gave the government new powers Oct. 2 to launch military incursions into Syria and Iraq, and to allow foreign forces to use its territory for possible operations against the ISIL.
Kurdish officials and activists said that ISIL fighters had so far not penetrated the frontier town as fighting raged on the eve of a major Muslim holiday.
"It looks like they are going to attack tonight and try to enter (Kobane) on the day of the feast," said Nasser Haj Mansour, a defense official in Syria’s Kurdish region, referring to the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha that begins on Oct. 4 in most Muslim countries.
"Kurdish fighters are ready and prepared to repel any attack."
Haj Mansour said shelling of Kobane on Oct. 3 afternoon killed three civilians.
Kobane and its surrounding areas have been under attack since mid-September, with militants capturing dozens of nearby Kurdish villages. The assault, which has forced some 160,000 Syrians to flee, has left the Kurdish militiamen scrambling to repel the militants’ advance into the outskirts of the town, also known as Ayn Arab.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that some 3,000 Kurds were stuck on the Syria-Turkish border, prevented by Turkish authorities from crossing to safety.
The Observatory, which monitors Syria’s civil war, reported intense fighting Oct. 3 to the east and southeast of Kobane, where it said seven ISIL fighters and 13 Kurdish militiamen were killed.
The assault came despite renewed U.S.-led airstrikes in the area. The United States has been bombing the ISIL group across Syria since last week and in neighboring Iraq since early August.
An Associated Press reporter monitoring the fighting from the Turkish border town of Suruç reported intense shelling of Kobane from the south and west. One tank moved on the edge of the town as shells landed just 500 meters from the Turkish border. Ambulances whizzed to and from the border, bringing the wounded to Turkey for treatment.
Ismet Sheikh Hassan, the Kurdish defense minister for the Kobane region, said ISIL fighters were advancing from the east, west and southeast of Kobane, firing rockets on the town. He called on the U.S.-led coalition "to hit (militant) tanks instead of bases."
On Oct. 3, Syria’s Foreign Ministry warned Turkey that deploying troops inside its borders would be seen as an aggression, and called on the international community to "put limits to the adventures" of the Turkish leadership.
Turkey has been one of the strongest backers of Syrian opposition groups fighting to remove President Bashar Assad from power.
Asked about Davutoğlu’s statement, Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for Syria’s leading Kurdish Democratic Union Party, said: "How does he want to prevent the fall of Kobane and until now Turkey has done nothing."
Khalil said Kobane is now almost empty of civilians and the situation is "very dangerous." He said Kurdish fighters in the town "will fight until the last gunman and last gunwoman."
Also Oct. 3, the Observatory and Syrian state media said government forces advanced in northern Aleppo province, capturing three villages, including Handarat. The capture of the villages tightens government control of areas linking the contested city of Aleppo with other parts of the province.
The Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees, which also monitors Syria’s 3Ğ-year-old civil war, reported several airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition targeting ISIL positions in the group’s strongholds of Raqqa and Aleppo, as well as the eastern oil-rich region of Deir el-Zour that borders Iraq.
U.S. Central Command said the coalition on Oct. 2 and Oct. 2. continued its airstrikes, destroying an ISIL garrison in the northeastern province of Hassakeh and two tanks in Deir el-Zour. It said two strikes north of Raqqa hit two modular oil refineries and a militant training camp, while another strike northeast of Aleppo struck a building occupied by the ISIL group.
Meanwhile, in Iraq, ISIL militants armed with a rocket launcher shot down an Iraqi military attack helicopter Oct. 3, killing two pilots and raising new worries about their ability to attack aircraft amid the ongoing U.S.-led airstrikes.
The Mi-35 helicopter crashed outside the town of Beiji, 130 miles north of Baghdad and home to Iraq’s largest oil refinery, authorities said. U.S. Central Command said it carried out airstrikes in Sinjar and Fallujah over Thursday and Oct. 3, while Canada announced it was joining the aerial campaign against the militant group in Iraq and might extend the strikes to Syria if invited by the Assad government.