September 22, 2014
By Mohammed al-Haj Ali and Dan Wilkofsky
AMMAN: An estimated 130,000 Syrians–the majority of them Kurdish–have crossed the border into Turkey since last week, fleeing a rapid Islamic State (IS) advance towards the Kurdish border town of Ain al-Arab, the UNHCR said in a statement on Monday.
“The Turkish authorities and UNHCR are preparing for the possibility of hundreds of thousands more refugees arriving in the coming days,” the UNHCR added.
Meanwhile, Turkish security forces clashed with displaced Kurds protesting along the border Sunday and Monday, deploying water cannons and tear gas, reported KDP-affiliated news agency Rudaw English.
Thousands of Syrians stream into Turkey. Photo courtesy of @AlMayadeenNews.
The source of the fighting between Kurds and Turkish guards was not immediately clear, but reports from the border indicate that young Kurdish men were hoping to re-enter Syria to fight the Islamic State.
Ain al-Arab, or Kobani in Kurdish, is located along the Syrian-Turkish border crossing and has historically served as a transit town between the two countries.
By attacking Ain al-Arab, IS is attempting to consolidate control over its territory between strongholds in Aleppo’s al-Bab city and A-Raqqa city.
IS began fighting joint PYD and FSA forces in the Kurdish-majority area of Ain al-Arab in July. It escalated its campaign Tuesday by employing tanks, heavy artillery and surface-to-surface missiles, publishing photos of the heavy machinery in action on IS-affiliated media websites.
IS had captured 60 Kurdish villages in the vicinity of Ain al-Arab by Friday, reported the pro-opposition monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
As of publishing, it appears that PYD forces have temporarily halted IS’s advance.
“Last night [Sunday night] we stopped IS fighters’ progress to the east of Ain al-Arab,” Redor Khalil, official spokesman for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, told pan-Arab daily al-Hayat Monday, adding that the eastern front has witnessed the fiercest combat.
Clashes are ongoing to the south and west of Ain al-Arab, but at a slower pace than those to the East, Khalil said.
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