UN envoy urges Turkey to allow Kurds to protect Kobane

UN envoy urges Turkey to allow Kurds to protect Kobane

GENEVA - Agence France-Presse
UN envoy urges Turkey to allow Kurds to protect Kobane

UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, shows a map of the Syrian town of Kobane during a press conference at the UN office in Geneva on Oct. 10. AFP Photo

U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura on Oct. 10 called on Turkey to allow Kurds to cross back into Syria to defend the key border town of Kobane from an onslaught by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadists.

"We would like to appeal to the Turkish authorities in order to allow the flow of volunteers at least, and their equipment to be able to enter the city to contribute to a self-defence operation," de Mistura, the U.N.'s Syria envoy, told reporters in Geneva.

He also called on Turkey, "if they can, to support the deterrent actions of the coalition through whatever means from their own territory."       

Kobane, where Kurdish fighters are holding out after a three-week offensive by the ISIL militants, has become a crucial battleground in the fight against he ISIL extremists.

The statement marked an unusual one by the United Nations, which usually strives to stay neutral in conflicts, but de Mistura explained the rare appeal by the precarious situation in the key border town.

Kobane was "literally surrounded" except for one narrow entry and exit point, with up to 700 mainly elderly civilians still inside the city centre, with another 10,000-13,000 gathered nearby, he said.

"If this falls, the 700 plus perhaps if they move a little bit further the 12,000 people ... will be most likely massacred," he warned.

U.S.-led aircraft pounded Islamic State militants near Kobane on Oct. 9, but as fighting killed dozens, calls grew for ground action to support Kobane's beleaguered Kurdish defenders.

Since the ISIL assault on Kobane began in mid-September, nearly 500 people have been killed in and around the town and 300,000 have fled the region.

Battles have been raging especially fiercely since the jihadists breached Kobane's defences earlier this week.

Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, would be a major prize for the ISIL, giving it unbroken control of a long stretch of the border.

The militants who have rampaged across large parts of Iraq and Syria have sent shockwaves through the international community as they have committed highly publicized brutal murders, including beheadings of several Western hostages.