Turkey’s president has warned that the Syrian State, Kobani is “about to fall” after Islamic State fighters advanced into the south west of the Kurdish town, pressing home a three-week assault that has cost a reported 400 lives.
The prospect that the town on the Turkish border could be captured by the militants has increased pressure on Turkey, with the strongest army in the region, to join an international coalition to fight against Islamic State.
Islamic State wants to take Kobani in order to strengthen its grip on the border area and consolidate the territorial gains it has made in Iraq and Syria in recent months. U.S.-led air strikes have so far failed to prevent its advance on Kobani.
Turkish President, Tayyip Erdogan, said bombing was not enough to defeat the Islamic State and Turkey had made clear that additional measures would be needed.
“The problem of ISIS (Islamic State) … cannot be solved via air bombardment. Right now … Kobani is about to fall,” he said during a visit to a camp for Syrian refugees.
“We had warned the West. We wanted three things. No-fly zone, a secure zone parallel to that, and the training of moderate Syrian rebels,” he said.
He said Turkey would intervene if there were threats to Turkish soldiers guarding a historic site in Syria that Ankara regards as its territory. But so far Turkey has made no move to get involved in the fighting across the border.
Reuters reports that from across the Turkish border, two Islamic State flags could be seen flying over the eastern side of Kobani. Two air strikes hit the area and sporadic gunfire could be heard.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said it had also documented 412 deaths of civilians and fighters during the three-week battle for Kobani.
On Tuesday, plumes of white smoke rose over eastern and central parts of Kobani and two ambulance crossed the border, travelling from Kobani to the Turkish side.
Islamic State fighters were using heavy weapons and shells to hit Kobani, senior Kurdish official Asya Abdullah told Reuters from inside the town.
“Yesterday there was a violent clash. We have fought hard to keep them out of the town,” she said by telephone. “The clashes are not in the whole of Kobani, but in specific areas, on the outskirts and towards the centre.”
Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot, has ramped up its offensive in recent days against the mainly Kurdish border town, despite being targeted by U.S.-led coalition led air strikes aimed at halting its progress.
“There were clashes overnight. Not heavy but ISIS is going forward from the southwest. They have crossed into Kobani and control some buildings in the city there,” said Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Observatory, a group that monitors the conflict with a network on the ground. ISIS is a former name for Islamic State.
“They are about 50 metres inside the south-west of the city,” Abdulrahman said.
An estimated 180,000 people have fled into Turkey from the Kobani region following the Islamic State advance. More than 2,000 Syrian Kurds including women and children were evacuated from the town after the latest fighting, a member of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) said on Monday.