Syria border town ‘about to fall’, UN envoy urges action

October 8, 2014 9:10 am
Smoke rises from the city centre of the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, during heavy fighting on October 7, 2014/AFP
Smoke rises from the city centre of the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, during heavy fighting on October 7, 2014/AFP

, MURSITPINAR, October 8-  Jihadists are on the verge of seizing the key Syrian border town of Kobane, neighbouring Turkey has warned, prompting the UN envoy to Syria to appeal for immediate international action to prevent its fall.

Washington, whose air strikes have failed to stop Islamic State group fighters’ advance on Kobane, said it was “very concerned” for Kurdish civilians still inside the town given the jihadists’ track record of “terrible acts of violence” against ethnic minorities.

IS jihadists launched their assault on the Kobane region three weeks ago, driving back the outnumbered and outgunned Kurdish militia defenders and forcing 200,000 mainly Kurdish refugees to flee to neighbouring Turkey.

But a Kurdish journalist inside the town told AFP there were still thousands of civilians who have refused to abandon their homes.

Washington and its Arab allies stepped up air raids on the advancing IS fighters — AFP correspondents on the Turkish side of the border reported hearing at least eight strikes around Kobane on Tuesday.

The Pentagon said coalition strikes near Kobane on Monday and Tuesday had damaged or destroyed several armed vehicles, anti aircraft artillery, a tank and a jihadist “unit”.

But they failed to stop IS fighters from penetrating eastern neighbourhoods of the town on Monday, sparking fierce street battles with the Kurdish defenders.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain based monitoring group, said the Kurds had succeeded in forcing the jihadists to retreat in some areas they had entered.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that the town was “about to fall”, saying a ground operation was needed to defeat the fighters.

“I am telling the West — dropping bombs from the air will not provide a solution,” he said.

Turkey last week won parliamentary approval for military intervention against IS in Syria and Iraq, but it has yet to announce any firm plans despite the advance of the jihadists on its doorstep.

Kobane, also known as Ain al Arab, would be a major prize for the jihadists, as it would give them unbroken control of a long stretch of Syria’s border with Turkey.

Pro Kurdish demonstrators angered by Ankara’s failure to act so far clashed with police across Turkey, leaving at least a dozen people dead and many wounded.

The Kurdish diaspora also held protests in Europe, with dozens of demonstrators bursting into the European Parliament in Brussels.

– ‘Need to act now’ –

The UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, appealed to the international community to act immediately to defend Kobane against the much better armed IS fighters, who seized large amounts of heavy weaponry from retreating troops in a lightning offensive in neighbouring Iraq in June.

“The world, all of us, will regret deeply if (IS) is able to take over a city which has defended itself with courage but is close to not being able to do so. We need to act now,” he said.

“The international community needs to defend them. The international community cannot sustain another city falling under (IS)”.

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