Air strikes 'stall IS advance' on Syrian

تم نشره في Thu 9 October / Oct 2014. 11:37 PM


US-led forces have continued air strikes against Islamic State (IS) militants near the besieged Syrian Kurdish border town of Kobane.

A senior local official said IS had been pushed back towards the edge of the town as a result of the strikes and advances by the town's defenders.

Earlier reports said the militants had controlled almost a third of Kobane, on the Turkish-Syrian border.

Turkey has ruled out a ground operation on its own against IS in Syria.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu renewed calls for the creation of a no-fly zone along the Syrian side of the border during talks in Ankara with new Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg.

Turkey - a Nato member - also wants co-ordinated action against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

This would include preventing Syrian government aircraft from flying near the Turkish border. Turkey fears that Mr Assad's forces would be the main beneficiaries of an IS retreat.

It also wants to ease the influx of refugees into Turkey, and is under intense pressure to do more to help the Kurdish forces in Kobane.

The UN's special envoy in Syria, Steffan de Mistura, said on Wednesday that everything possible had to be done to save Kobane, and the town's fall would threaten Turkey itself.

The Turkish government won parliamentary authorisation for possible military action last week.

At the scene: Quentin Sommerville, BBC News, Turkey-Syria border

As the battle for Kobane continues, on the Turkish side of the border, the long-running conflict between Turkey and the Kurdish population is on full display.

The governor of the Turkish border town of Suruc, Abduallah Ciftci, says he is providing humanitarian aid to those remaining inside the besieged town of Kobane, and that military help is impossible. Turkey's first priority must be to protect its borders, he said.

Kurdish protesters gathered this morning in cotton fields near the border demanding urgent help from Turkey. They say humanitarian help is especially needed.

One of the protesters, Hassibeh Merginkal, told me: "They are allowing Islamic State to kill our people and blow up our homes."

The motion provides a legal framework for the Turkish military to launch incursions into Syria and Iraq against militants who threaten Turkey. It also allows for foreign troops to be stationed in Turkey as part of the same campaign.

But Turkey remains wary of getting involved, partly because it is concerned about arming the Kurdish forces who are fighting the militants. Turkey has fought a long civil war with its Kurdish minority.

Pro-Kurdish protesters demanding Turkish intervention have clashed with police in several cities over recent days, with 20 people killed.

'Crazy without sleep'

After overnight fighting, monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, quoting "reliable sources", said IS controlled a third of the town and was advancing towards the centre from eastern districts.

But US and Kurdish reports suggested the defenders still controlled most of the town and were holding out.

A local commander told the BBC his fighters were "going crazy without sleep", but only 20% of the town was under IS control.

Senior local official Idris Nassan told the BBC: "Air strikes and special operations of the YPG pushed [IS] back and now they are not controlling any more the one-third of Kobane [sic]."

"They are controlling some houses in the east and south-eastern sides of Kobane."

Air strikes continued overnight and into Thursday morning. US Central Command confirmed that five had been carried out south of Kobane on Wednesday and Thursday.

Analysis: Jonathan Marcus, BBC defence correspondent

Turkey has often spoken about establishing buffer zones inside Syria - both to protect its own borders and to provide areas where refugees could gather safely. But creating such zones would represent a significant military operation requiring the seizure of defendable terrain.

This might require an incursion into Syria of some significant depth and Turkish forces would immediately become targets for IS fighters.

Turkey has always argued that such a buffer zone must be accompanied by a no-fly zone to protect against the Syrian Air Force. Turkey's thinking was forged at a time when it saw the Assad regime as the main enemy. The US might argue that against IS - which has no air force - such an exclusion zone is irrelevant.

But this all goes to the central differences between Ankara and Washington, with the Turks insisting that the anti-IS campaign must be accompanied by stepped up measures against the Assad regime as well.

They destroyed an IS training camp, support building and two vehicles, and also hit two IS units, CentCom said.

Mr Hassan welcomed the strikes as a "very good sign" but said that Kurdish forces urgently needed more weapons and ammunition "to stop the heavy weaponry of [IS]".

"They [IS] are using tanks, Humvee vehicles and cannons, rockets, mortars," he added.

Turkey has stationed tanks along its border overlooking the town, but has made no move to intervene.

The US is leading an international coalition against IS after the group seized swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, which both share a border with Turkey.

Meanwhile Italy has proposed a European Union multinational team to deal with the threat of jihadist fighters returning to EU countries from Syria and Iraq, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said.

EU counter-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove said air strikes against IS may provide fighters from Europe with an "incentive" to return home, which Western governments perceive as a major security threat.