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Siege of Kobanê
Part of the Syrian Civil War and Syrian Kurdish–Islamist conflict (2013–present)
Siege of Kobane.svg
Map showing the evolution of the Siege of Kobanê
Date 16 September 2014 - ongoing
(4 years, 7 months, 1 week and 1 day)
Location Kobanê (Kurdish) also known as Ayn al-Arab (Arabic) northern Syria
Result Ongoing
  • IS captures 350 villages and towns in the Kobanê region[1]
  • Some 90 percent of residents in the region flee to Turkey[2][3]
  • IS advances into the east of Kobanê city October 6,[4] and advances into the south October 7, as well as besieging the city from the west[5]
Belligerents
Flag of Rojava.svg Rojava

Syria Free Syrian Army[6]


American-led intervention in Syria

ShababFlag.svg Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Commanders and leaders
Syrian Kurdistan Ismet Sheikh Hassan[11]

Syrian Kurdistan Meysa Abdo[12]
Syria Abu Laith[13]


United States Barack Obama

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Omar al-Shishani
Strength
1,500 fighters (Kurdish reinforcements)[14]
300 FSA fighters[15]
4,000–9,000 fighters[16][17] 30–50 tanks[18]
Casualties and losses
199 YPG killed[19]
9 FSA killed[20]
331 killed[21]
4+ captured[22]
20–37 civilians killed[20][23]
160,000[24]–200,000[25] civilians flee to Turkey
Number of killed on both sides possibly double due to both sides covering up their losses[20]


The Siege of Kobanê was launched by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militants on 16 September 2014, in order to capture the town of Kobanê, (alternatively spelled Kobani) also known as Ayn al-Arab, Syria.

By 2 October, ISIL succeeded in capturing 350 Kurdish villages and towns,[26] creating a wave of some 200,000 displaced Kurds, most of whom are fleeing across the border into Turkey.

OffensiveEdit

ISIL advanceEdit

On 17 September, following the capture of a strategic bridge over the Euphrates,[27] ISIL launched a large offensive using tanks, rockets and artillery in the direction of Kobanê and within 24 hours captured 21 Kurdish inhabited villages. The advance left Kobanê encircled by ISIL forces.[28]

On 19 September, ISIL captured 39 more villages,[29] bringing their forces to within 20 kilometers of Kobanê.[30] 45,000 refugees crossed into Turkey, fearing an ISIL takeover of the region,[31] while a number of refugees was stopped at the border and ordered to return to Kobanê by Turkish authorities.[32] The inhabitants of 100 villages were evacuated after coming under continuous shelling and dozens of civilians and YPG fighters were killed as the ISIL advance continued.[33]

On 20 September, ISIL forces reached to within 15 kilometers of Kobanê[23] after capturing three more villages and started bombarding areas 10 kilometers from the city.[34] Meanwhile, more than 300 Kurdish fighters reached Kobanê from Turkey as reinforcements.[23] Senior PKK official Murat Karayilan appealed to the Kurdish youth in Turkey to join Kurdish forces in Syria. During the day, three rockets exploded within Kobanê, spreading fear among its inhabitants.[35] Since the start of the offensive, 34 civilians had been killed,[23] while the number of refugees had reached 60,000.[23]

As of 21 September, ISIL militants captured 64 villages, while 39 ISIS and 27 Kurdish fighters had been killed in the previous 48 hours.[36] Kurdish forces evacuated at least 100 villages on the Syrian side after ISIL militants started the onslaught against the Kurdish villages.[37] ISIS troops reached to within 10 kilometers from the city and were continuing to advance[38] with fighting concentrated on the southern and eastern suburbs of Kobanê, 13 kilometers from the city.[39]

On 22 September, a Kurdish spokesman reported that the ISIL advance east of the city had been halted during the previous night.[40] Despite this, ISIS forces shelled the center of the city and clashes continued in the vicinity of the village of Mojik (about 6 km west of Kobanê) and the village of Alishar (7 km east of the city).[41] On the same day, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said that more than 130,000 Syrian Kurds fled across the border into Turkey, escaping an advance by ISIS jihadists.[42]

On 24 September, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant forces made more advances south of the city despite air strikes against its supply lines by warplanes which reportedly came from the Turkish side of the border.[43] This brought them to within 8 kilometers south of Kobanê, the closest they had been to the city since the offensive started.[44] During the advance, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant captured the villages of Robey and Tall Ghazal and nearby grain silos.[45][46] In addition, an ISIL source claimed their forces had also captured several villages to the west of Kobanê. The frontline to the west had moved to the cluster of villages called Siftek as more ISIL fighters and tanks arrived for the offensive during the previous day.[44]

The next morning, ISIL fighters were around 2 kilometers away as clashes were continuing. By this point, ISIL controlled 75 percent of the Kobanê Canton, while Kurdish forces only had control of Kobanê, the smaller town of Shera and around 15 villages.[47]

On 26 September, ISIL troops captured a hill, from where YPG fighters had been attacking them in recent days, 10 km (6 miles) west of Kobanê. They also captured a village around 7 km to the east of Kobanê.[48]

Coalition Airstrikes and Kobanê surroundedEdit

On 27 September, U.S. and Arab coalition planes bombed the area around Kobanê for the first time, targeting ISIS positions in the village of Alishar, 4 kilometers from the city, and used as a command and control center by ISIL.[49] Despite the coalition airstrikes against frontline ISIL positions, they were still able to shell the city of Kobanê for the first time, wounding several people.[50] The reticence to use airstrikes to help the Kurdish city was perhaps to avoid upsetting Turkey.[51]

By 28 September, 1,500 Kurdish fighters coming from Turkey reinforced the Kurds in Kobanê.[14]

On 29 September, ISIL forces approaching from the south and the southeast were 5 kilometers from the city,[52] while Kobanê was facing sustained bombardment for a second day.[53] The next day, ISIS troops coming in from the east advanced to 2–3 kilometers from Kobanê.[54] During the fighting, the Kurds reportedly destroyed two ISIS tanks. ISIS fighters also captured the village of Siftek, to the west, and used it to stage attacks on Kobanê itself.[55] The village of Kazikan was also captured.[56]

On 1 October, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant forces advanced south-east of Kobanê and on the western front, from which Kurdish forces retreated.[57] This resulted in ISIL troops capturing the final village on the outskirts of Kobanê and approaching to within one kilometer from the town's entrance. At this point, Kurdish fighters in Kobanê were reinforcing their positions with sandbags to prepare for potential house-to-house fighting.[58] By evening, amid a sharp shortage of weapons, Kurdish forces withdrew from the city suburbs as ISIL forces continued their advance.[59] Torture, rape, murder and mutilation followed in the jihadists' wake.[60] ISIL militants had also reportedly been beheading Kurdish fighters, including women.[61]

By 2 October, ISIL forces captured 350[1] of the 354 villages around Kobanê,[62] and were positioned only hundreds of meters to the south and south-east of the city.[1] Intense firefights had erupted that day, resulting in 57 Islamist deaths in the east of the city, while an Iraqi ISIL commander and eight other militants were killed in the southern sector.[63]

The next day, ISIL militants took control of Kobanê's southern and eastern entrances and exits.[64] They had also taken a strategic hill and a radio tower, which overlooks the town.[65] Later, a Kurdish fighter reported that Islamists had entered the city's south-western edges and fighting was ongoing.[66] The US-led coalition conducted at least seven air sorties against ISIL targets around Kobanê in the five days to 2 October, performed no strikes on that day,[67] then reportedly carried out further strikes late on 3 October.[68]

On 11 October, ISIL forces attempt to take the centre[69] of Kobane but were repelled by YPG forces and American airstrikes on ISIL positions.

Battle for KobanêEdit

During the night between 3 and 4 October, an ISIL attempt to breach the city was repelled.[70] Coalition airstrikes continued on the 4th targeting ISIS logistics, units, artillery positions, and an armored personal carrier.[71] By this point, the city was essentially empty as nearly all residents, except the defenders, fled to Turkey.[72] The last foreign journalist also left on 4 October.[73]

On 5 October, ISIL managed to capture the southern side of Mistanour hill, outside Kobane, and a Kurdish activist said if the Islamists captured the hill it would give them easy access to the town.[74] The clashes at Mistanour involved hand-to-hand fighting.[75] Also, for the first time, a Kurdish female fighter (Deilar Kanj Khamis, a mother of two who is also known by the nom de guerre Arin Mirkan[76]) blew herself up in a suicide attack on an ISIL position,[77] killing 10 ISIS fighters.[78] Later, after seizing full control of the hill,[79] ISIS militants entered the southeastern edge of Kobane and street-to-street fighting began.[80] This was the first time the jihadists had entered the city itself.[81]

On 6 October, jihadists penetrated about 100 meters into the city[82] and an ISIL flag was raised on top of a four-story building in southeastern Kobane, shortly after which an ISIL flag was also raised on top of the nearby hill that was captured the previous day.[78][83] The militants then made an attempt to advance further, but when entering Street 48 they were ambushed by YPG fighters and 20 jihadists were killed.[81] Throughout the day, fighting raged for control of the Maqtala al-Jadida and Qani Arab districts,[84] which ended with ISIL forces capturing both neighborhoods, as well as the industrial zone.[85]

By the next morning, Kurdish forces managed to expel ISIL fighters from most of the eastern part of Kobane they had captured the previous night, although they were still present in parts of the eastern neighborhoods. Meanwhile, ISIL forces captured several buildings on the southern edge of the city as well as a hospital under construction on the western side.[86] The Kurdish success in the eastern part of town came after several U.S. airstrikes during the night and morning targeted ISIL positions and destroyed a tank, three technicals and an ISIL unit and damaged a tank and one technical. ISIL anti-aircraft artillery was also hit.[87]

On 8 October, Kurdish fighters pushed out ISIL forces from the city, following a new round of U.S. airstrikes[88] that targeted the rear of the Islamic State fighters.[89] One of the targets hit was a concentration of ISIL fighters near a mosque in the eastern part of the city. However, despite the airstrikes, the jihadists soon launched a new assault in the eastern part of Kobane as ISIL reinforcements arrived[90] and pushed 50–70 meters west of the industrial zone, capturing the market area.[91] By evening, ISIL militants had advanced overall 100 meters towards the city center.[90] Meanwhile, Kurdish fighters captured a hill on the western outskirts of Kobane.[92]

On 9 October, ISIL forces were in control of more than a third of the city, including all eastern areas, a small part of the northeast and an area in the southeast.[93] ISIL also captured the Kurdish police headquarters, which they targeted the previous night with a large suicide truck-bomb. The clashes in that area left a high ranking Kurdish police commander dead.[94] The police station was then targeted by coalition aircraft and destroyed.[95] To create a smoke screen from coalition planes, ISIL fighters started setting fire to buildings and towers of black smoke burned for hours on the top of Mistanour hill. Later, it was reported Kurdish fighters made advances against ISIL in the eastern part of town, while FSA fighters attacked ISIL forces from the rear causing heavy losses.[96] According to the SOHR, Kurdish forces managed to besiege a group of IS fighters in the police headquarters.[97] The clashes around the building left 11 ISIS fighters killed and four were captured by the Kurds.[22] At this point, Kurdish forces were faced with the risk of running out of ammunition.[98]

On 10 October, ISIL fighters advanced towards the city center[99] and captured the Kurdish military headquarters, which would potentially allow them to advance on the border post and thus surround Kurdish forces inside Kobane. With the capture of the headquarters, ISIL was in control of 40 percent of the town.[100] Meanwhile, Kurdish and Syrian rebel fighters retreated from Sh’ir hill on the western outskirts that they captured two days earlier. In order to avoid coalition airstrikes, ISIL fighters resorted to transporting new supplies of ammunition to the city by motorcycles,[101] while also flying YPG flags on their vehicles to mislead coalition aircraft. Also, ISIL militants wearing YPG uniforms were infiltrating Kurdish lines.[102] Later during the day, an ISIL suicide car-bomb exploded near the Grand Mosque, west of the security quarter,[103] which was followed by clashes in an attempt by ISIL to capture the mosque which would give them a good vantage point for their snipers over a wide area of the city.[104]

Spillover on the Turkish side of the border and protestsEdit

More than 200,000 Syrian refugees flowed into Turkey.[14] However, security forces did not allow PKK militants and other volunteers to go the other way, using tear gas and water canon.[105] On 30 September, errant shells landed on Turkish soil and the Turks shot back into Syrian territory, with Turkish armor being brought to the border to deter further incursions.[106] Five civilians in Turkey were injured when a mortar hit their house. Turkey evacuated two villages as a precautionary measure.[107] While dispersing Kurdish crowds, Turkish police fired tear gas directly into a BBC news crew van, breaking through the rear window and starting a small fire.[108]

Protests erupted in various cities in Turkey, about the lack of support of Kurds by the Turkish government. Protesters were met with teargas and water cannons, and initially 12 people were killed. 31 people have been killed in subsequent rioting.[9] President Erdogan said that he was not ready to launch operations against ISIS in Syria unless it was also against Assad regime.[109] This was in spite of the parliament decision to allow military operations in Iraq and Syria.

International reactionsEdit

File:2014-10-05 Demonstration in Köln von Kurden gegen IS-Terror in Kobane (102).JPG

Flag of Kurdistan Workers' Party.svg PKK - In September, the PKK threatened to resume its fight against the Turkish government, partly because of what it said was the latter's support for the onslaught against Kobanê.[110] Öcalan reiterated the threat on 1 October.[111] In response to the treatment of fleeing Kurdish refugees, the PKK killed three and wound two Turkish policemen, violating the PKK–Turkey year-and-a-half old cease fire.[112]

Flag of Kurdistan.svg Iraqi Kurdistan - On 6 October Iraqi Kurdistan officials blamed the geography of the Kobanê region, as well as the PYD's "strategic mistakes"—which included concentrating power in an authoritarian manner—for not being able to send aid or support.[113]

Flag of PUK
- In September 2014, PUK asked Iran, Iraq and Turkey to help Kurdish defenders of Kobane.[114]

Flag of Syria.svg Syria - A senior Syrian minister apologized for not sending airstrikes, saying that Kobanê was so close to the Turkish border, that their jets would violate Turkish territory and be shot down.[115] The Syrian Foreign Ministry also said that any Turkish military activity on its soil would be considered an act of aggression.[116]

Flag of the United States.svg USA - The United States has conducted airstrikes but the proximity of the Turkish border and Kurdish fighters make for a difficult situation. A Pentagon official believes the a media outcry about the situation in Kobane is because there are reporters close by. The official said many other towns have fallen to ISIL without TV crews present.[117] It is unclear why the US Air Force has been concentrating on destroying Syrian oil refineries by airstrikes, instead of trying to protect civilians from ISIL attacks. For example, in the night of September 24 to 25, the US Air Force flew 13 attacks against targets in Syria: 12 of those attacks were against oil refineries, and just one attack was against an ISIL troops' vehicle.[118] US officials indicated to CNN that they were not concerned if Kobane fell and that the US goals in Syria are "not to save cities and towns, but to go after ISIS' senior leadership, oil refineries and other infrastructure that would curb the terror group's ability to operate—particularly in Iraq.[119]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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  19. 164 killed (September 16–October 6),[1] 8 killed (October 7),[2] 3 killed (October 8),[3] 15 killed (October 8),[4] 9 killed (October 10),[5] total of 199 reported killed
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 More than 400 were killed and 20 were killed during the day in the eyes of the Arabs
  21. 219 killed (September 16–October 6),[6] 32 killed (October 7),[7] 43 killed (October 8),[8] 11 killed (October 9),[9] 16 killed (October 10),[10] 10 killed (October 11),[11] total of 331 reported killed
  22. 22.0 22.1 مصرع وأسر 15 عنصراً من "الدولة الإسلامية"
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  33. "Euronews Report". http://www.euronews.com/newswires/2697556-hundreds-of-syrian-kurds-fleeing-islamic-state-gather-on-turkish-border/. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
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