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Fierce fighting rages as IS attacks Kurds near Turkish border

Air strikes visible from Turkish side of frontier following sustained attacks overnight on YPG-held positions in Tal Abyad by IS fighters
Smoke rises from clashes near the Syrian-Turkish border at Tal Abyad (AA)

Fierce clashes were reported in northern Syria on Saturday between the Islamic State (IS) group and Kurdish fighters, despite attempts elsewhere in the country to implement an internationally backed ceasefire agreement aimed at halting most of the country's fighting after almost five years of war.

The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which is fighting in northern Syria alongside the majority-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said in a statement on Saturday that IS "mercenaries" had launched an attack on the town of Tal Abyad at 23:00 local time (9 pm GMT).

IS is excluded from the ceasefire between pro-government forces and opposition groups because it is considered a terrorist organisation by the United Nations and by the US and Russia,  which are both also bombing territory held by the group.

The YPG said on Thursday that it would observe the temporary truce but reserved the right to retaliate if attacked.

The YPG's statement on Saturday alleged that IS fighters had attacked the Syrian Kurdish town of Tal Abyad, close to the Turkish border, on two fronts.

According to the statement, IS fighters set off from Raqqa, the group's Syrian stronghold, as well as from the Turkish side of the border.

“The attacks by IS mercenaries set off from Raqqa and Turkey at precisely 23:00 on 26 February,” the statement read.

Clashes in the area were reportedly continuing into Saturday afternoon, with local news site Hasakah News Network reporting that IS had seized control of the National Hospital and administrative buildings in Tal Abyad.

Unidentied war planes launched air strikes on contested areas around Tal Abyad on Saturday afternoon, the Turkish state Anadolu Agency said.

Smoke from the strikes, whose sources was not immediately clear, could be seen from the Turkish side of the border, the agency reported.

Many of the other frontlines of battle in Syria were said to be “calm” on Saturday morning after the deal to temporarily cease hostilities came into force at midnight local time (10 pm GMT).

However, activists in suburbs surrounding the capital Damascus and rural areas in the western governorate of Homs told pro-opposition news site Orient that they had been attacked overnight by pro-government forces.

Syria's SANA state news agency said that several shells fired from eastern Damascus had hit residential neighbourhoods on Saturday without causing any casualties.