ISIS launches new offensive east of Syria’s Kobane

The fresh assault came after the Observatory said ISIS fighters had withdrawn overnight from some parts of Kobane

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Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadists launched a new offensive in the east of the embattled Syrian town of Kobane after withdrawing from parts of it following U.S.-led strikes, Agence France-Presse reported a monitor as saying on Wednesday.

“There are fierce clashes underway in the east of Ain al-Arab (Kobane) after the Islamic State launched an offensive to retake the areas it lost control of,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

He said at least three fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) were killed in the fighting on Wednesday, along with an unspecified number of ISIS jihadists.

The fresh assault came after the Observatory said ISIS fighters had withdrawn overnight from parts of the eastern and southwestern edges of Kobane.

Abdel Rahman said “fighters from the Islamic State withdrew overnight from several areas in the east of Ain al-Arab (Kobane) and the southwestern edges.”

After the pullback, the group’s fighters were present in eastern parts of the strategic town and its southern edges, but were no longer inside on the western front, Abdel Rahman said.

He said the move came after “their rear positions were hit in strikes, causing casualties and damaging at least four of their vehicles.”

Meanwhile, an aircraft of the international coalition on Wednesday carried out a new air strike against ISIS targets around Kobane.

The air strike sent a cloud of thick black smoke billowing into the air from a hill on the eastern side of Kobane, an AFP correspondent reported.

ISIS fighters entered Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on Monday night, after nearly three weeks of fighting around the town on the Syria-Turkey border.

While Turkey voted to join the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS in Syria, at least 18 people were killed on Tuesday in pro-Kurdish protests across Turkey against Ankara’s refusal to intervene militarily against ISIS attacking the Syrian town of Kobane, the Anadulo news agency reported.

The civil unrest prompted Turkish Airlines to cancel all of its Wednesday morning flights to the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey after the local governor imposed a curfew, Reuters reported.

Five people were killed in Diyarbakir on Tuesday as Kurds, who make up an estimated 20 percent of the population, demanded the government to do more to protect the Syrian town of Kobani.

Turkish Airlines’ flights originating at Istanbul’s two airports and the capital Ankara’s airport were halted, an official said.

Turkey’s Defense Minister Ismet Yılmaz said late Tuesday that Turkey aims to act with the international community “with minimum damage” and NATO already has a contingency plan for the country in case ISIS decides to attack.

On Tuesday, fighting raged in the east, west and south of Kobane, which is Syria’s third biggest Kurdish town, and a U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS carried out multiple air strikes around the town.

Mustafa Ebdi, a Kurdish journalist and activist from Kobane, wrote on his Facebook page that “the streets of the Maqtala neighborhood in southeastern Kobane are full of the bodies of Daesh fighters,” using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

But he added that hundreds of civilians remained in the town and “the humanitarian situation is difficult and people need food and water.”

ISIS began its advance on Kobane on Sep. 16, quickly sweeping through the surrounding countryside and prompting an estimated 186,000 people to flee the region across the border into Turkey.

According to the Observatory, at least 412 people have been killed in the fighting, though the group said it believes the true toll could be twice as high.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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