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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Battle for Syrian border town Kobani heats up

While the Islamic State appears to have suffered significant casualties in the long conflict over the Syrian town Kobani( or Kobane) on the border with Turkey the Kurdish troops in the town appear to be at a disadvantage at present.
Kurdish officials now claim that Kobani is totally surrounded by Islamic State forces. While most Islamic State forces are to the south and east there have now been smaller raids from the west and even worse from the north which is quite close to the Turkish border. Kurdish officials even claimed that Islamic State fighters were crossing over from the Turkish side of the border. Turkey denies that this is happening but did admit that the border crossing was bombed. The Kurds are suspicious that Turkey may be cooperating with IS on the siege. However, another explanation of the events is that IS decided to send troops to the north of Kobani to prevent reinforcements arriving from Turkey or even to promote the Kurd's suspicions that Turkey is working with them.
  Al Jazeera reports that according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that at least 50 IS fighters have been killed during the last 24 hours in the fight for Kobani. The deaths were due to clashes, suicide bombings, and U.S. air strikes. This is said to be the largest number of casualties since the IS assault began on September 16. Eleven Kurdish fighters were also reported killed along with a Syrian supporter. ABC news reports that the attack said to be from Turkey began with a suicide bomber who drove an armored vehicle into the border crossing with Turkey where he detonated his explosives. A spokesperson for the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, Nawaf Khalli said that with the attack the IS were now attacking from all four sides. While the Turkish government also acknowledged the attack on the border crossing a government statement claimed the vehicle had not come from the Turkish side of the border: "Claims that the vehicle reached the border gate by crossing through Turkish soil are a lie. Contrary to certain claims, no Turkish official has made any statement claiming that the bomb-loaded vehicle had crossed in from Turkey.The security forces who are on alert in the border region have ... taken all necessary measures." On the other side Mustafa Bali, an activist in Kobani claimed that IS (Daesh) fighters were in grain silos on the Turkish side of the border and are launching attacks from there: "It is now clear that Turkey is openly cooperating with Daesh,"
A Kurdish source also complained that Turkish bombardment of Kobani had wounded a number of civilians and fighters. Anwar Muslim co-chair of the Kohane canton said: “Under the pretense of stopping an ISIS attack on Turkey the Turkish army bombarded the center of Kobane with tanks and artillery. A number of civilians and fighters have been wounded.” The Turkish government is worried that the Kurds will set up an independent area in Syria and that this could encourage Kurdish demands for more autonomy within Turkey. Turkey as with other rebel groups sees the first priority as getting rid of Assad, whereas the Kurds have been reluctant to fight against Assad as long as his forces do not attack them.
The Kurds have concentrated on protecting areas they control and building government and infrastructure in those areas.The standoff with Assad has been in place for a long time complicating Kurdish relationships to other rebels but at the same time making Kurdish controlled areas some of the most secure in Syria. The Turkish government has shown considerable reluctance to provide much in the way of aid for the Kurds even though many western powers have been urging them to do so.

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