Kurdish fighters in the battle for the Syrian town of Kobane weathered a fresh onslaught by fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as they awaited promised reinforcements from Iraq.
The Kurdish militia faced fierce attacks on Tuesday, fresh from heavy battles on Monday evening in which ISIL appeared to be trying to cut off the border with Turkey before the reinforcements could arrive.
This account is according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, who also reported that coalition forces carried out further air strikes overnight, following weeks of attacks in and around Kobane.
Ankara’s announcement on Monday that it would facilitate Kurdish forces from Iraq crossing its border with Syria to relieve Kobane’s beleaguered defenders marked a major shift of policy and was swiftly welcomed by the US.
Kobane has become a crucial symbolic battleground in the war against ISIL, which is fighting to extend areas under its control in Iraq and Syria, where it has declared an Islamic “caliphate” that has not been widely-recognised.
An influx of well-trained Peshmerga fighters into Kobane could be a major boost for the Syrian Kurds.
Iraqi Kurdish officials have said they would provide training, although any forces sent would be Syrian Kurds.
The US has also stepped up its commitment to the town’s defence in recent days, with Secretary of State John Kerry saying it would be “irresponsible” and “morally very difficult” not to help.
Three C-130 cargo aircraft carried out what the US military called “multiple” successful drops of supplies early on Monday, including arms provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq.
Kurdish forces defending Kobane have welcomed the moves and issued appeals for more help.
The supplies were “intended to enable continued resistance against ISIL’s attempts to overtake Kobane,” the US military said.
ISIL lost at least five of its fighters to air strikes on Monday and a further 12 in ground battles, including two of its members who were suicide bombers, the monitoring group said.
Five Kurdish fighters were also killed.
A senior administration official said Monday’s airdrop was in recognition of the “impressive” resistance put up by the Kurds and the losses they were inflicting on ISIL.
But US commanders said the top priority remains Iraq, where ISIL swept through much of the Sunni Arab heartland north and west of Baghdad in June and both government and Kurdish forces are under pressure. Al Jazeera