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Kurdish forces push back against Islamic State in Kobane

Kurdish forces continue to ask for more aerial support as well as reinforcements from Turkey
The fighting over Kobane appears to have stalled after a rash of US-led coalition airstrikes (AA)

Kurdish forces have managed to repel Islamic State militants from part of the besieged Syrian town of Kobane and say they will seize back the entire city in the coming days, various Kurdish sources said on Thursday.

A Kurdish official in Kobane said that US-led airstrikes had successfully pushed back Islamic State insurgents from parts of the town and had allowed Kurdish fighters to regroup and go on the offensive for the first time.

"The air strikes are more intense now. IS lost a lot of fighters and weaponry, they are weaker than before so YPG can push them back," Idris Nassan, a spokesperson for the Kobane province, told MEE by Skype.

"If the strikes continue like now I think with some help, more weapons and ammunition, it will be enough to destroy them within Kobane," he said.

Nassan added that Kurdish forces were "flushing out" IS fighters from the eastern and southeastern parts of the town that have seen some of the fiercest fighting.

Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith, reporting from the Turkish town of Urfu, overlooking Kobane, also confirmed that the situation had seemingly calmed after weeks of fierce clashes.

"For the weeks we've been here, we have been reporting gunfire and artillery fire. This stopped today,” Smith said.

"There has been no artillery fire and hardly no gunfire, which have been replaced by the sound of air strikes. The attacks have had a real impact on [Islamic State’s] ability to gain ground in Kobane."

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a watchdog, more than 600 fighters have been killed in ground fighting since 16 September.

Between 16 September and midnight (2100 GMT) on Wednesday, a total of 662 people were killed in ground fighting, the Britain-based monitoring group said, while adding that 20 civilians have also been killed.

IS lost 374 of its militants, while 268 people have been killed fighting on the Kurdish side, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

It is unclear how many civilians are left in the border town, with Turkish authorities claiming that it has been cleared of civilians but Kurdish fighters insisting that 2,000 people, including many sick and elderly, remain trapped.

The Turkey-based Kurdish Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the United Nations have also been calling on the Turkish authorities to open up the border to allow PKK reinforcements to enter Kobane.

The issue has been a major sticking point in recent weeks, and has threatened to undermine the peace talks with the PKK in Turkey.  

However, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has stayed resolute, insisting that Turkey would only allow aid and Syrian refugees to cross the border back into Syria.

"We don't let Turkish citizens go into Syria because we don't want them to be a part of the conflict," he told reporters.

The PKK is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the EU, but its ability to confront and stand firm against IS, has seemingly led to the West relaxing its stance on the PKK


In Iraq Islamic State militants have made important advances despite US-led air strikes, Washington's envoy to the US-led coalition fighting the group warned Wednesday.

It was clear the IS group "has made substantial gains in Iraq" and it will take time to build up local forces that could defeat them in Syria and Iraq, John Allen, a retired four-star US general, told reporters.

The Iraqi government and Kurdish forces have halted or pushed back IS militants in some places, including around Mosul dam, but the group has "tactical momentum" in other areas, Allen said.

Although the United States and its allies were carrying out air raids in both Syria and Iraq, Allen acknowledged the international coalition was most concerned with the situation in Iraq.

There, IS fighters have seized much of the western Anbar province and are closing in on the region west of the capital Baghdad.

Speaking after a tour of the Middle East in which Allen spoke to coalition partners and Iraqi leaders, the presidential envoy emphasized that military power alone would not be enough to defeat the IS group -- a point often made by the White House.

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