Turkey calls for ground invasion of Kobane to stop Isil
As Islamic State jihadists continue to make gains in the key Syrian border town, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan call for a ‘ground operation’ to slow their advance
ane as the key Syrian border town looks set to fall under the control of the Islamic State and of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
The town has been under assault by Isil jihadists for more than three weeks and has become a focal point for the West’s air strikes against the terrorist organisation.
On Monday, as fighting intensified around Kobane, the black flag of the Islamic State was seen flying from its buildings and a nearby hill, prompting fears that the town was about to fall under Isil control.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has since warned that a ground operation is needed to defeat the militants, fueling concerns that US-led air strikes are doing little to halt Isil’s advances.
“The terror will not be over… unless we cooperate for a ground operation,” president Erdogan said in a televised speech in the eastern city of Gaziantep, adding that air strikes were not enough on their own.
“Months have passed but no results have been achieved. Kobane is about to fall.”
His comments came as Dutch F-16s joined the fight in northern Iraq, possibly killing Isil militants with their first aerial strikes, the country’s defence ministry said.
“Two Dutch F-16s this morning used weapons for the first time in Iraq against the IS terror group. They dropped three bombs on armed IS vehicles that were shooting at (Kurdish) Peshmerga fighters in the north of the country,” a statement said.
“Vehicles were destroyed in the attack and IS fighters possibly killed.”
Despite an initial slowing in the jihadist’s advance on Kobane last week, the renewed offensive had by late on Monday seen Isil penetrate the town for the first time.
Local residents reported seeing to Isil flags set up on top of buildings at the eastern entrance to the town.
The battle moved from one of shellfire to urban guerilla warfare: “We can hear the sound of clashes in the street,” said Parwer Ali Mohamed, a translator for the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).
Gunfire rang out loudly as soldiers from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fought hard to defend the city centre.
The battle sent more than 2000 Syrian Kurds including women and children fleeing from the border town into Turkey.
Turkish border guards had last week tried to stop the mass exodus of panicked locals from crossing the border by firing teargas into the crowds.
The battle for Kobane is an example of the complexity of foreign intervention in the Syrian war: whilst the US and allies have sought to stop Isil by bombing it from the air, they have been reluctant to arm their YPG allies on the ground.
Turkey, a NATO member, has sought to block the supply of arms to the YPG for fear they will bolster their sister group, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) – an organisation proscribed as terrorists – which is fighting for autonomy in Turkey’s southeast.
In a sign of mounting desperation among the Kurds defending Kobane, a Kurdish female fighter blew herself up at an IS position east of Kobane on Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said.
It was the first reported instance of a female Kurdish fighter employing a tactic often used by the jihadists.
The bomber, in her 20s, was a full-time YPG fighter identified as Dilar Gencxemis, alias Arin Mirkan, from Kurdish-controlled Afrin in northwestern Syria.
“She killed dozens of gang members and demonstrated the YPG fighters’ determined resistance,” her group said in a statement carried by the pro-Kurdish Firat news agency.
On another front, twin IS suicide truck bombings killed at least 30 YPG fighters and security officers on Monday in the Kurdish town of Hasakeh, northeast Syria, the Observatory said.
Sunday’s fighting around Kobane – also known as Ain al-Arab – was said to have killed at least 19 Kurdish fighters and 27 IS jihadists.