MESOP – KOBANE UNDER FIRE : Many Displaced as ISIS Attacks Syrian Kurdish Villages with Heavy Artillery
Kurdish officials in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) reported fresh fighting in recent days as ISIS sought to advance on the city of Kobane using advanced weapons that its fighters captured from the Iraqi army in the fall of Mosul last month.
ISIS on June 30 declared the establishment of an Islamic state, spanning the border of the two countries, and proclaimed its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi to be the new caliph.
So far in the Syrian civil war, Kurdish forces linked to the Democratic Union Party (PYD) have fought hard to hold off the advance of ISIS and other jihadist groups. They have succeeded in keeping the militants out of Rojava and have secured relative stability within the region. It has thus been spared the devastation inflicted on much of the rest of Syria.
Amid the renewed fighting, the head of the autonomous Kobane canton, Mahmud Bashar, called on all Kurds to come to the aid of the PYD’s armed wing – the People’s Protection Units (YPG) – to prevent the territory falling to the Islamists.
“The fighting is going on and we cannot say that the YPG or the ISIS have taken or lost this or that area,” Bashar told Rudaw by telephone. “The fighting isn’t over yet.”
Shelling had forced many villagers west of the Euphrates river to flee their homes and seek shelter in Kobane.
“The villagers have sent their women and children to Kobane and the men themselves have taken up arms to fight the ISIS,” Bashar said.
Neither side has revealed casualties in the latest fighting.
The PYD last year announced Kurdish autonomy in three cantons of Rojava, including Kobane. The party, which has close links with Abdullah Ocalan’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party, says it has established an administration that represents all communities in the region. There have been tensions, however, with other Kurdish groups over the dominant role of the PYD.
The autonomous cantons have not been recognised either abroad or by the moderate mainstream Syrian opposition which sees their establishment as a move that could lead to the break up of Syria.
With Rojava once again under pressure from a resurgent ISIS, local military leaders have appealed for international support to see off the threat.
YPG leaders have said that they need outside help to fight the Islamists, pointing out that the U.S. government is considering millions of dollars of support to what it regards as moderate opposition forces in Syria.
YPG commander Sipan Hemo complained recently that Washington had yet to make clear where it stood on the role of the Kurds in Syria. He told Rudaw: “If the goal truly is for democracy to come to the Middle East, and if the moderate forces in Syria are going to be supported, the Kurds are prepared for this and are the ones who deserve it the most.”