Reuters in Beirut
The Guardian, Monday 22 September 2014
Syrian Kurdish fighters have halted an advance by Islamic State (Isis) fighters to the east of a predominantly Kurdish town near the border with Turkey, a spokesman for the main armed Kurdish group said.
“Fierce clashes are still under way but the Isis advance to the east of Kobani has been halted since last night,” Redur Xelil, spokesman for the YPG said via Skype.
He said the eastern front was the scene of the fiercest fighting in the offensive launched by Isis last Tuesday on Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab. More than 100,000 Syrian Kurds have fled its advance, many crossing the border into Turkey.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks violence in the Syrian war, said Isis fighters had made no significant advance in the past 24 hours.
The offensive is Isis’s second attempt to take Kobani since June, when it staged a lightning advance across northern Iraq, seizing the city of Mosul and with it Iraqi weapons including US-made hardware that the Syrian Kurds say is being used against them.
The previous attack on Kobani, in July, was fought off with the help of Kurds who crossed the border from Turkey. Xelil said hundreds had crossed the border again to help repel the current offensive.
“There have been no reinforcements apart from some Kurdish youths from Turkey,” he said.
Bordercrossing between Syria & Turkey
The US has launched air strikes against Isis in Iraq and has said it would not hesitate to attack the group in Syria, but wants allies to join its campaign.
The United Nations said on Sunday the number of Syrian Kurds who had fled into neighbouring Turkey might have topped 100,000 and was likely to go much higher.
“There are still clashes to the west and south of Kobani but not at the same intensity as the eastern front,” Xelil said.
Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Observatory, said Isis had made “no progress worth mentioning” in the past 24 hours, but that clashes were “at their most intense”.
There were conflicting accounts of how far Isis fighters were from Kobani. Xelil said they were 12-19 miles (20-30 km) away, while Abdulrahman said they were about half that distance from the town.