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Kurdish forces recapture Syria-Iraq border crossing - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Members of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) man a weapon mounted on a pick-up truck as they take position behind cement blocks in the Iraqi city of Rabia on the Iraqi-Syrian border, in August 29, 2014. (REUTERS/Rodi Said)

Members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) man a weapon mounted on a pick-up truck as they take position behind cement blocks in the Iraqi city of Rabia on the Iraqi-Syrian border, on August 29, 2014. (REUTERS/Rodi Said)

Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iraqi Kurdish forces captured a strategic crossing on the Iraqi-Syrian border from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on Tuesday, according to Kurdish military officials.

“Our forces managed in the early hours of the attack to make significant progress on all fronts, taking full control of [the town of] Rabia,” the official spokesman of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Ministry of Peshmerga, Gen. Halgurd Hikmat, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have suffered heavy losses at the hands of the Peshmerga, the official maintained, as fighting intensified near a local hospital where several of the group’s fighters are besieged.

The operation will increase pressure on the Islamist group already weakened by ongoing US-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.

Many of ISIS’s members have been injured during the attack and are receiving treatment inside the hospital, the Kurdish official said.

The operation aims to reduce the pressure on Kurdish fighters defending a strategic town in Syria from ISIS.

Peshmerga troops have captured a large expanse of territory spanning 30 villages in the Nineveh province, he added.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Peshmerga commander Abdul Rahman Korini said: “We are now in the middle of Rabia and Peshmerga forces have recaptured all areas to the west of Mosul.”

The official said his forces “directed a fatal blow to ISIS and drove its militants towards Mosul and Tal Afar, leaving behind scores of injured and [military] vehicles.”

Elsewhere, Kurdish military efforts against ISIS were less successful. The deputy commander of the Peshmerga’s 9th Infantry Brigade, Maj. Gen. Faiq Qadir, said that his forces were still battling ISIS near Kirkuk because Iraqi air force did not provide them with enough air cover.

The official said ISIS is receiving major reinforcements from neighboring villages and possesses heavy weaponry. “The area needs to be heavily shelled to destroy ISIS’s heavy weaponry,” he added.

In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, military expert Salah Al-Fili said: “Peshmerga forces are moving according to a plan and are ready to launch sudden attacks on ISIS from several areas.”

The expert said Monday’s swoop on Rabia was a vital step that “secures the main road between Kirkuk and Toz Khormatu.”