Kurds Gain Ground But not Control in Struggle for Syrian Border Town
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Syrian Kurds backed by fighters from northern Iraq gained ground towards breaking the siege of the Syrian border town of Kobane but are drawing heavy fire from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) insurgents and have yet to win back control.
Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga, or "those who face death", arrived with armoured vehicles and artillery more than a week ago to try to repulse a more than month-old siege that has tested a US-led coalition's ability to halt the ISIL insurgents.
Known in Arabic as Ayn al-Arab, the town is among a few areas in civil war-ridden Syria where the coalition can coordinate air strikes against ISIL with operations by an effective ground force.
Kurdish forces have retaken some villages around Kobane but a Reuters correspondent on the Turkish side of the border said the front lines in the town itself appeared little changed, with the insurgents still controlling its eastern part.
Mortar bombs launched from ISIL positions hit the center of town on Tuesday and there were exchanges of machinegun fire as jets flew overhead. The Coalition planes launched three air strikes south of Kobane overnight.
Idris Nassan, a local official in Kobane, estimated that ISIL now controlled less than 20 percent of the town and that heavy artillery salvoes by peshmerga had helped the Kurds to advance to the south and east.
Peshmerga fighters, positioned on a hill on the western side of the town, launched rockets at a building where ISIL had raised its black flag, according to a Reuters witness.
A video on YouTube distributed by ISIL supporters showed fighters purportedly in Syria's northern province of Raqqa promising to reinforce Kobane.