THE fiercest fighting in days shook the Syrian border town of Kobani over the weekend as Islamic State (IS) fighters attacked Kurdish defenders with mortars and car bombs, sources in the town and a monitoring group said yesterday.
IS, which controls much of Syria and Iraq, fired 44 mortars at Kurdish parts of the town on Saturday alone. Some shells fell inside nearby Turkey, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The month-long battle for Kobani has ebbed and flowed. A week ago, Kurds said the town would soon fall. The United States and its coalition partners then stepped up air strikes on IS, which wants to take Kobani to strengthen its position in northern Syria.
The coalition has been bombing IS in Iraq since August and extended the campaign to Syria in September after IS, a group that espouses a rigid interpretation of Islam and initially fought Syrian President Bashar al- Assad’s forces, made huge territorial gains.
Raids on IS around Kobani have been stepped up, with the fate of the town seen as a test for US President Barack Obama’s campaign against the Islamists.
NATO member Turkey, whose forces are ranged along the border overlooking Kobani, is reluctant to intervene. It insists allies should also confront Assad to end Syria’s civil war, which has killed close to 200,000 people since March 2011.
“We had the most intense clashes in days, perhaps a week, last night. IS attacked from three different sides, including the municipality building and the marketplace,” said Abdulrahman Gok, a journalist in Kobani.
“Clashes did not stop until the morning. We have had an early morning walk inside the city and have seen lots of damaged cars on the streets and unexploded mortar shells,” he said.
The Observatory reported two IS car bombs hit Kurdish positions on Saturday evening, leading to casualties.
A fighter from one of the female units of the main Syrian Kurdish militia in Kobani, YPG, said Kurdish fighters were able to detonate the car bombs before they reached their targets.
“Last night there were clashes all across Kobani… this morning the clashes are still ongoing,” she said.
The Observatory said 70 IS fighters had been killed in the past two days, according to sources at the hospital in the town of Tel Abyab, where IS bodies are taken. .It added that some Syrian Arab fighters from the Revolutionaries of Raqqa Brigade, who are fighting alongside Kurdish fighters, had executed two IS captives, including a child of around 15 years old.
IS have also used executions throughout their campaigns in Syria and Iraq, killing hundreds of enemy combatants and civilians who oppose their cause, according to IS videos and statements.
Welat Omer, a doctor caring for the few remaining civilians in Kobani, said he was looking after 15 patients, including children and the elderly.
“We need medicine, including antibiotics and milk for the children, and medicine for the elderly, who have heart conditions, diabetes and high blood pressure,” Mr Omer said.
Hundreds of thousands have fled IS’s advance. Turkey hosts about 1.5 million Syrian refugees, including almost 200,000 Syrian Kurds from Kobani.
Ankara has refused to rearm beleaguered Kurdish fighters, who complain they are at a huge disadvantage in the face of IS weaponry, much of it seized from the Iraqi military when the militants took the city of Mosul in June. Turkey views the YPG with suspicion for its long-standing links with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a 30-year armed campaign for self-rule in Turkey.
President Tayyip Erdogan was quoted in the Turkish media yesterday as saying Ankara will never arm the YPG through its political wing, the PYD.
This stance has sparked outrage among Turkey’s Kurds who make up about 20 per cent of the population. Riots in several cities earlier this month left more than 35 people dead.