Syrian Kurdish fighters struggle to maintain Kobane

Kurdish people look at smoke rising from the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, from the Turkish-Syrian border, on October 11, 2014.

Kurdish people look at smoke rising from the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, from the Turkish-Syrian border, on October 11, 2014.

Syrian Kurdish fighters engaged in fierce fighting with Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants on Saturday in an effort to maintain the Syrian border town of Kobane under their control, the Associated Press reported.

Despite airstrikes by U.S.-led coalition forces targeting ISIS fighters, Syrian Kurds continue to battle the militants in an effort to ward off an ISIS-advance further into the town.

Ismet Sheikh Hasan, a Kurdish official, said the clashes remained in the southern and eastern parts of the town, where he described the situation as dire.

While the Syrian Kurdish fighters are fighting a fierce fight, they remained outgunned by ISIS militants, Rami Abdurrahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.

The U.S. military conducted six airstrikes against ISIS near Kobane on Friday and Saturday, U.S. Central Command said, according to Reuters.

The U.S. and Dutch militaries also carried out three airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq near Tal Afar and Hit on Friday and Saturday, Central Command said in a statement.

Additionally, U.S. forces “conducted multiple airdrops to help resupply Iraqi security forces at the request of the Government of Iraq,” it said, adding the supplies of food, water and ammunition were dropped around Baiji.

Earlier on Saturday, Kurdish fighters blocked an attempt by ISIS militants to advance into the center of the town, Agence France-Presse reported.

The ISIS assault sparked 90 minutes of heavy fighting with the town’s Kurdish defenders before the militants fell back, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Calls for a greater push against ISIS

The European Union had called on Friday for the international community to play a greater role in the fight against ISIS.

“We are deeply concerned by the security and humanitarian situation in Kobane and the rest of the Syrian Kurdish self-proclaimed autonomous region after three weeks of siege and fierce fighting,” said the statement from the office of EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton.

These statements came after ISIS seized the headquarters of the Kurdish fighters defending the town.

“The people of Kobane have demonstrated to the international community their resolve to use all means to protect their fundamental rights and values and to resist oppression.”

“The EU remains committed to play its role to the full in the fight against ISIL and in solidarity with all people suffering from ISIL actions,” the statement said, using an alternative name for ISIS.

It called for the EU, Turkey and other regional and international partners “to work together more, to isolate and contain the threat of ISIL.”

It raised concerns about recent deaths in Turkey, where Kurds have launched a wave of violent protests against the government’s refusal to cross the border and engage militarily with ISIS fighters.

“The EU is seized of the urgency of the situation and is working on the details of a significant further package of additional support,” the statement added.

An imminent massacre

U.N. envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura warned on Friday that some 12,000 civilians still in or near Kobane, including 700 mainly elderly people in the town center, “will most likely be massacred” by ISIS militants if the town falls.

Kobane was “literally surrounded,” except for one narrow entry and exit point to the border, de Mistura said.

ISIS launched an offensive to take over Kobane in mid-September where fighting has killed a reported 500 people and forced 200,000 others to flee across the border into Turkey.

A US Navy official observes flight operations from the flight control aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Gulf.

A US Navy official observes flight operations from the flight control aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Gulf.

 
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