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Kurds battle Islamist militants closing in on Syrian town - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Smoke rises after a shell landed in Kobani in Syria as fighting intensified between Syrian Kurds and the militants of ISIS, on October 5, 2014.  (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Smoke rises after a shell landed in Kobani in Syria as fighting intensified between Syrian Kurds and the militants of ISIS, on October 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Mursitpinar and Beirut, Reuters—Kurdish forces battled overnight with Islamists trying to seize a hill overlooking a Syrian border town with Turkey as US-led coalition warplanes carried out raids on the militants, a Kurdish official and a monitoring group said on Sunday.

A translator with the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) inside Kobani said Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forces were hitting it with tank and mortar fire as they tried to seize Mistanour hill, a landmark whose capture would give them easy access to the town.

Kurdish forces had managed to stop ISIS capturing the hill, Parwer Mohammed Ali told Reuters.

“Overnight there were new airstrikes. They struck three or four times in the vicinity Mistanour hill,” he added.

ISIS, a radical offshoot of Al-Qaeda, launched a new offensive to capture Kobani, a Kurdish town, two weeks ago as they try consolidate their hold on a stretch of territory across northern Syria and Iraq.

US-led air raids on ISIS in Syria have done little to blunt its advance on Kobani, also known as Ayn Al-Arab, and the violence has driven about some 180,000 Kurds into Turkey.

Turkey has shown no sign it will intervene to directly confront ISIS on its borders. It sees the Kurdish armed groups defending Kobani as foes.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the three-year-old Syrian war, said ISIS has managed to capture the southern side of Mistanour hill, the furthest away from the town.

At least 11 Kurdish fighters and 16 ISIS insurgents were killed in the overnight clashes, it said.

Ocalan Iso, deputy commander of the Kurdish forces defending Kobani, said the clashes had focused on the hill, which lies to the south east. ISIS forces are now within a kilometer of Kobani, he said by telephone.

Some violence has already spilled over the border. Early on Sunday a mortar round landed around 550 yards (500 meters) inside Turkish territory close to an army base at Mursitpinar.

Explosions were audible across the border from Kobani, where shells continued to land inside, a Reuters correspondent said.

On Saturday a Turkish special forces officer was wounded after being hit by shrapnel from a stray shell apparently fired by ISIS fighters, according to media and local sources.

Two Turkish armored vehicles were stationed at the Yumurtalik border crossing 3 miles (5 km) west of Kobani on Sunday with their guns trained on Syria, but there was no sign of significant troop movements.

Tanks which earlier in the week had been deployed along the border had returned to their base.

Further west in Syria, government warplanes bombed towns in the countryside north of Aleppo, which the Syrian military is seeking to recapture from a mix of insurgent groups.

Last week the Syrian army made a new advance on Aleppo, seizing three villages north of the city and threatening rebel supply lines in a potentially major reversal.

President Bashar Al-Assad’s army has intensified an offensive in the heavily-populated western areas of Syria as US-led warplanes concentrate on areas in the north and east—ISIS areas which Damascus sees as less important.

Clashes took place between the Syrian army and ISIS insurgents around Kowaires military airbase in Aleppo, the Observatory said. Syrian warplanes on Saturday carried out raids around the airport.

In the industrial city of Sheikh Najjar, northeast of Aleppo, Islamist groups including the Al-Nusra Front also fought with government forces backed by pro-government militias and fighters from Shi’ite Lebanese group Hezbollah, the Observatory said.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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