The Islamic State continues its advance towards the Kurdish of city Kobane in northern Syria. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that the Islamic State has gained control of “325 villages and towns” in the vicinity of Ayn al Arab (the Arabic name for Kobane). As the group moves closer to Kobane, more Kurdish citizens are fleeing for the Turkish border. Around 150,000 Kurdish refugees are reported to have fled to Turkey since this assault began two weeks ago. Refugees spoken to by NBC talk of food being scarce, electricity being cut, and little outside support for Syrian Kurds.
US and coalition aircraft have launched airstrikes against Islamic State forces near Kobane in recent days. Yesterday, three airstrikes were conducted near the Turkish-Syrian border, according to US Central Command. The Turkish Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is also sending reinforcements to Kobane from both Turkey and Iraq.
Since 2012, Kobane has been controlled by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish force affiliated with the PKK, which remains a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. The YPG considers Kobane to be part of Rojava, or Syrian Kurdistan.
Previous reporting by The Long War Journal noted that this assault began two weeks ago when the Islamic State initiated a new attack on the city after failing to take it back in July. According to some Kurdish activists on Twitter, the offensive has been three-pronged, with Islamic State forces attacking Kobane from the east, south, and west of the city.
The Islamic State currently controls the Jarabulus border crossing to the west and the Tal Abayd crossing to the east. Control of the crossings allows the Islamic State to control the flow of weapons, recruits, cash, and other supplies coming in from Turkey, and it also restricts the Kurdish rebels’ access to northern Aleppo and Raqqah provinces in Syria. Taking Kobane would enable the terrorist organization to further consolidate its control in both Aleppo and northern Syria. Since mid-August, the Islamic State has also been pressing the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, as well as Ahrar al Sham, the Islamic Front, and other rival jihadist groups in northern Aleppo. [See LWJ report, Islamic State advances against jihadist foes in Aleppo.]
Photographs published on Twitter document some of the fighting near Kobane. Recently the Islamic State has been forced to publicize its propaganda via its supporters on social media, as Twitter has taken an active role in suspending official accounts associated with the terrorist organization’s wiliyats, or administrative districts. It is important to note that the following photos were originally released by Wiliyat Raqqah elsewhere on the internet, but Kobane is in Aleppo province in Syria — and also under the jurisdiction of the Islamic State wiliyat for Aleppo. Due to the proximity of Kobane to the borders of Raqqah, it is likely fighters stationed in that administrative district are also taking part in the offensive.
The title image of the set of pictures, which reads “Progress of the Islamic State army towards the city of Ayn al Arab”:
A mortar being used to shell a position close to the city:
Heavy weaponry is also being used:
An Islamic State tank fires on YPG positions:
An Islamic State sniper overlooking YPG positions:
It appears that the Islamic State has been clearing houses as it gets closer:
Gear the Islamic State seized from YPG fighters: