US-led strikes hit jihadists attacking Syria Kurd town on Turkish border

US-led strikes hit jihadists attacking Syria Kurd town on Turkish border

BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse
US-led strikes hit jihadists attacking Syria Kurd town on Turkish border

Kurdish protesters try to tear down the border fence to cross into neighboring Syria during a demonstration near the Mürşitpınar border crossing at Suruç in Şanlıurfa province. AFP photo

The U.S.-led coalition hit Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets around a Syrian town on the Turkish border Sept. 27 where tens of thousands have fled a jihadist assault, a monitoring group said.

The reported strikes around the mainly Kurdish town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane in Kurdish, came as the U.S.-led coalition widened its air war against ISIL targets in Syria as part of "near continuous" raids against the jihadists.

It was the second time that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had reported U.S.-led air strikes around the town since the launch of the ISIL advance which has sent 160,000 streaming over the border into Turkey.

Both the Observatory and Syrian state media had also reported coalition air strikes around the town on Sept. 25 night.

Senior Syrian Kurdish official Newaf Khalil confirmed the latest strikes, and told AFP they destroyed several ISIL tanks.

"We definitely welcome... the international coalition in the fight against (ISIL)," Khalil told AFP via the Internet, adding that the latest strike hit the ISIL-held town of Ali Shar, east of Ain al-Arab.

The strikes came a day after hundreds of Kurds crossed from Turkey to reinforce Ain al-Arab's Kurdish militia defenders, breaking through the border fence.

The U.S.-led coalition hit ISIL targets in Syria's central province of Homs for the first time on Sept. 27 as well as in the town of Minbej, near the western limit of ISIL control, the Observatory said.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said the targets hit in Homs province were far away from the front line with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, who control Homs city, Syria's third largest.

"The U.S.-Arab coalition has for the first time struck IS bases in the eastern desert of Homs province," Abdel Rahman said, adding that the positions were in the area of Al-Hammad, east of ancient city Palmyra.

Washington has been keen not to let Assad's forces exploit the air campaign against ISIL to take the upper hand in the more than three-year-old civil war.   

Further east, the coalition pounded the city of Raqa, which the jihadists have made their headquarters, said the Observatory, which relies on a broad network of activists and doctors for its reports.

The strikes also hit ISIL targets around the town of Tabqa, which houses an air base whose capture by the jihadists last month sealed their occupation of the whole of Raqa province, the Britain-based group added.

The expanded operations in Syria by Washington and its Arab allies came after three more European governments deployed fighter jets for strikes against ISIL in Iraq, freeing up U.S. air power.

Belgium, Britain and Denmark approved plans to join France and the Netherlands in carrying out air raids against the militants in Iraq, allowing Washington to focus on the more complex operation in neighboring Syria, where ISIL has set up its headquarters.

The United States and its Arab allies launched air strikes against ISIL and other jihadist positions in northern and eastern Syria on Sept. 23.