ISIL forces have still been unable to overtake the border city of Kobane, in northern Syria. Many had felt that the fall of Kobane was inevitable, and really just a matter of time. Yet, with some outside help, the Kurdish forces have been able to hold their own for weeks now. Kurdish forces managed to successfully hold off the latest advance by ISIL militants, when it had been trying to cut off the Kurds from the Turkish border.
Kobane has been utterly devastated by the fighting. There were three hospitals there not long ago, but each of them has been destroyed. Those who need medical attention rely on a mobile clinic. The threat of still greater suffering is far from over, for that matter. Staffan de Mistura, United Nations Syria envoy, warned that 12,000 civilians were still remaining in and around Kobane, and that they might face a tragic end if they are cut off from the border. ISIL already has a well documented track record of atrocities. The latest such instance occurred on Thursday in Aleppo, where a man accused of secretly filming their headquarters was killed, and his body placed on a cross.
Up to this point, ISIL had gained much territory with little to no resistance, and their reputation for brutality grew along with the amount of territory that they gained. But Kobane has been different. Kurdish fighters have nowhere to escape to should the city fall, since it is squeezed in between the Turkish border and a vast and inhospitable desert.
ISIL has been launching heavy mortar attacks from the east, aiming for the border gate. They have mostly hit the Syrian side of the border crossing, which is the only means that the Kurds have remaining to receive supplies. But according to eyewitnesses, at least three rounds hit on the Turkish side of the border, including on a hill near to where there is a Turkish military presence.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, ISIL suffered heavy losses and were forced to call for reinforcements, after losing 21 of their fighters as a result of airstrikes on Friday, and an additional 14 lost during ground fighting. Two fighters captured by Kurdish rebels were put to death, including one who was only 15 years old.
ISIL still has been unable to subdue Kobane, although it looked ready to take it over not long ago. It still owns approximately 30 to 40 percent of the city. However, airstrikes helped the Kurdish rebels to regain territory, as they pushed ISIL further to the west, and took control of a hill, Tel Shair. Fighting continues in surrounding villages.
In the meantime, the United States stepped up airstrikes in Syria and Iraq. It launched 25 airstrikes since Friday that targeted ISIL forces as well as important oil infrastructure under their control. The airstrikes have proven critical for the Kurdish fighters in defending Kobane.
Fighting in neighboring Iraq continued through the weekend, as well. While American officials are very pleased with the stingy Kurdish resistance in Kobane and find it encouraging, they also warn that Kobane still may fall. The focus for the American military has instead leaned more heavily on Iraq, where after long delays, MP’s finally decided on defense and interior ministers to help lead Iraq in the fight against ISIL. Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the move, suggesting that Iraq was now ready to move forward.
ISIL forces have still remained unable to overtake Kobane, despite seemingly being on the brink of doing so for weeks. The battle for Kobane is now entering its fourth week. Overnight, there was very fierce fighting, with ISIL launching more mortar attacks, as well as car bombs. However, one expert, Justin Bronk, a research analyst of military sciences at the Royal United Services Institute, located in London, suggested that ISIL’s strategy is outdated, as the Kurdish fighters lured them into street battles inside the city. That made them sitting ducks for airstrikes.
By Charles Bordeau
U.S. Dept of Defense photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch, U.S. Air Force/Released – Flickr