Militants from the Al-Qaeda splinter group ISIL using weapons recently seized in Iraq have intensified an offensive against Kurdish areas in northern Syria as they fight to expand the territory under their control, activists say. ISIL terrorists now have large amounts of weapons left behind by Iraqi troops including US-made armored personnel carriers, Humvees and artillery.
Kurdish official Nawaf Khalil said members of ISIL are trying to capture an area near the Turkish border that would link them with their positions in eastern Syria. The fighting is concentrated in the region of Ain al-Arab, or Kobani in Kurdish.
Mustafa Osso, a Turkey-based Kurdish activist, said the aim of the offensive is to take the entire Kobani area. Osso says those standing against ISIL are mostly members of the YPG or People’s Protection Units, the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).
“We have called for support from Kurds around the world,” said Khalil, an official with the party.
ISIL captured three villages near Ain al-Arab and pressed forward toward the border town Wednesday. The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 18 Kurdish fighters were killed Wednesday alone.
The clashes continued Thursday while elsewhere in Aleppo province, ISIL militants clashed with fighters from several extremist militias and an allied Kurdish rebel group near the border town of Rai.
In neighboring Idlib province, militant groups have been busy on two fronts – battling against government troops, and against ISIL. The Observatory said 16 militants were killed in clashes with government troops Wednesday near the Hamidieh and Wadi Deif military bases.
Separately, the head of the Suqour al-Sham militia, a member of the Islamic Front rebel alliance, issued a strong warning to the commanders of two smaller rebel groups in Idlib, whose members this week defected to ISIL, taking with them more than 100 vehicles.
Abu Issa al-Sheikh, the commander of Suqour al-Sham, instructed the two smaller groups to dissolve themselves and turn over their weapons to his militia or become the target of attacks.
The Daoud Brigade and the Sham Army militias were involved earlier this week in a murky incident in which rebels in a convoy of some 160 vehicles claimed they were headed to Aleppo to reinforce their militant comrades – before heading instead to the city of Raqqa, the ISIL stronghold on the Euphrates River.