September 24, 2014
Reports of US-led airstrikes around Ain al-Arab have not hampered the Islamic State’s march toward the major Kurdish city close to the Turkish border.
By Brent Eng and Mohammad al-Haj Ali
AMMAN: The Islamic State appeared to be closing in on the Kurdish-majority city of Ain al-Arab in northern Aleppo Wednesday despite unconfirmed reports of airstrikes against IS positions in the area the night before.
Reports on the ground indicate that the Islamic State is anywhere from 10 to 15 kilometers from Ain al-Arab, known as Kobani in Kurdish.
Meanwhile, conflicting accounts cast doubt on the reported airstrikes against IS positions in Ain al-Arab.
The primary source of the report, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Wednesday that an airstrike Tuesday night hit IS supply roads 35 kilometers west of Kobani.
The monitoring group could not confirm that the plane was part of the American- led coalition, but did add that the aircraft was not Syrian and came from the direction of Turkey.
Arabic and Kurdish news agencies also reported the airstrikes Tuesday night.
“According to local sources…airplanes with the international alliance hit IS positions west of Kobani,” Ara News, a pro-opposition Syrian news agency, was quoted as saying.
Kurdish reactions to the airstrikes against IS in Syria appear to be positive, even if confusion remains as to whether the strikes around Ain al-Arab actually took place.
“There was a state of joy and satisfaction [amongst the Kurds] following the strikes,” Baz Ali Bkari, a Kurdish journalist based in the Turkish side of the border, told Syria Direct Wednesday, “because it means saving the Kurdish people from a genocide at the hands of IS.”
“The Kurdish people are with the American strikes against IS,” according to Radwan Biza, another journalist based in the Kurdish city of Tal Abyad on the Syrian-Turkish border.
“US-led airstrikes targeted IS strongholds in Kobani at the Turkish border,” said Kurdish news agency Rudaw Wednesday.
Turkish officials, however, denied that Turkey was involved in the attack, saying that neither Turkish airspace nor airports were used in the operation.
At the time of publication, the US had not commented on the strikes.
Regardless of the veracity of the airstrikes on Ain al-Arab, IS still appears to be on the verge of taking the city.
The jihadist group reportedly bolstered its attack on the Kurdish area Wednesday after US airstrikes on A-Raqqa earlier this week cleared the de facto IS base of its fighters, who then went to join the fight in Ain al-Arab.
Kurds still remain hopeful about US involvement despite the dire military position of the Kurdish fighters and the humanitarian catastrophe in Turkey.
An estimated 138,000 Syrians have crossed from the Ain al-Arab region into Turkey since last Thursday, the largest influx of refugees since the war began in 2011.
The UNHCR said in a statement that it is preparing for 400,000 refugees in total to arrive.
“The Kurds want weapons from the international alliance and more aerial attacks,” Bkari said. “The refugees are ready to return to Kobani after it is cleaned of IS.”
“The strikes came too late for Syria,” said Biza, “but just in time for Kobani.”
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