Turkish President Erdoğan says airstrikes not enough to save Kobane

Turkish President Erdoğan says airstrikes not enough to save Kobane

Turkish President Erdoğan says airstrikes not enough to save Kobane

President Erdoğan traveled to Gaziantep on Oct. 7 to visit a refugee camp for Syrians in Islahiye. AA Photo

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned yesterday that the Syrian border town of Kobane was on the verge of falling to jihadists, saying U.S.-led air strikes would not provide a solution to the problem.

Air strikes being carried out by a U.S.-led coalition to help Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadists were not enough on their own, he said.  

“I am telling the West – dropping bombs from the air will not provide a solution,” Erdoğan said to cheers from crowds. The terror will not be over ... unless there is cooperation for a ground operation,” Erdoğan said in a televised speech in the southeastern province of Gaziantep that was simultaneously translated into Arabic for the crowd.

“Months have passed but no results have been achieved. Kobane is about to fall,” he told an audience mainly composed of Syrian refugees in the city’s İslahiye camp.

With the fight for Kobane entering a crucial phase, ISIL militants fought to extend their foothold into new areas in the south and west of the town, a day after piercing its Kurdish defenses.

Gunfire, explosions and the roar of fighter jets were heard from the Turkish side of the border, while a Kurdish flag was seen flying in the center of Kobane, according to an AFP journalist.

The Turkish Parliament last week authorized the government to take military action against ISIL extremists, but so far no plans to carry out military operations have been announced.

“We are following the attacks on Kobane and other towns where our Kurdish brothers live with great concern,” Erdoğan said.

He added that the number of refugees in Turkey from the Kobane region had now risen to 200,000. “We just want peace in this region,” he said. “Turkey is on guard and well-equipped for any threats directed against itself,” he added.  

Erdoğan again called for a no-fly zone above Syria and a safe zone to host refugees, and said moderate rebel groups fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should be trained and equipped to defeat ISIL.

In the meantime, American and coalition aircraft renewed bombing raids on jihadists near Kobane yesterday, carrying out five strikes in a bid to halt the advance of ISIL.

Fighter jets, bombers and unmanned drone planes hit the ISIL militants in several locations south of Kobane on Oct. 6 and Oct. 7, destroying four armed vehicles, anti-aircraft artillery, a tank and a jihadist “unit,” Central Command, which is overseeing the air war, said in a statement.

At least 412 people, more than half of them jihadists, have been killed in and around Kobane since mid-September, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

It warned that the inaccessibility of the area meant that the full toll was probably much higher.