American air strikes have done little to dislodge Isis fighters trying to take a major Kurdish city on the Turkish border, Kurdish fighters and commanders have said.
They described the desperate battle to stop the Isis advance on Kobane which shelters a population of at least 200,000.
One described how a friend stopped an Isis assault by dropping a bomb through a tank hatch, killing himself as well. “He just couldn’t take seeing the tanks bombing the village and killing so many people,” said a young fighter of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), “He ran forward, opened the top and held the bomb while it exploded the tank.”
Blood still seeping through his bandage with metal pins securing his crushed lower leg, the injured fighter described how his battalion fought Isis militants who appeared to be high on drugs in the village of Tel Gazal in Kobane province on Tuesday: “We retreated into the village and hid to set an ambush when they attacked. They came with 10 cars with heavy machine guns strapped on top and four tanks.”
YPG fighters managed to destroy two of their cars, the fighter said, before his friend made his fatal attack, causing the Isis fighters to temporarily retreat.
Fighting has intensified on the southern front where the Kurdish YPG, bolstered by hundreds of Turkish Kurdish fighters and Free Syrian Army (FSA) battalions are fighting to stop the onslaught against Kobane. The battle has been focused on one hill overlooking Kobane four miles from the city, which sits directly on the Turkish border.
But the US-led air strikes which began on Monday have been ineffective, according to the chief of defence for Kobane, Ismat Sheikh Hassan, speaking to The Independent by phone from his base inside Kobane. “They struck empty buildings. Isis fighters used to be there but they left, so they haven’t helped us. If anything, they are now fighting harder to push forward before there are more strikes,” he said.
Despite fighting Isis on the Kobane front since July, YPG command was not informed of today’s air strikes aimed at “degrading and destroying” the brutal terror group.
As world leaders met at the United Nations to discuss President Obama’s “global strategy to degrade and ultimately defeat Isil [Isis]”, the Kurds that have fought them for more than a year, were left out of the loop.
“We only heard they had happened on the public radio - behind Isis lines the villages are empty,” said Mr Hassan. “The people who stayed have been killed and everybody else has left.”
In the past week hundreds of villages have emptied and more than 130,000 people have fled across the border to neighbouring Turkey, as Isis has pounded the surrounding villages with shells and heavy artillery. “If we had enough weapons, we wouldn’t be in this situation. We’ve been under siege for a year. We’re not getting any more weapons or ammunition,” said Mr Hassan.
Kobane has been under siege for a year, attacked by both Isis and al-Qa’eda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra.
Turkish armed forces lined the border, with tanks stationed in newly dug trenches, while armoured personnel carriers and special-forces vehicles were visibly on patrol.
Turkey’s land forces commander inspected troops along the Syrian border, as the Turkish government signalled a policy change in actively joining the international coalition led by the US against the jihadist threat in Iraq and Syria.
On the Mursitpinar border crossing, just metres from Kobane’s urban sprawl, men, women and children queued to return home.
“We have nothing in Turkey,” said Amina, a 30-year-old schoolteacher, tears streaking her cheeks. “We had to sleep on the street, the park under the sky. At least we have our homes there. If we are going to die, we will die in our own homes, in our own town.”
As Isis moves closer to the besieged town on all sides, the Kurdish fighters are determined to defend their land until the very end.
“Don’t worry, guys, we won’t leave Kobane,” Mr Hassan said when asked if the YPG would retreat to Turkey. “I’m ready to be executed by Isis but I’m not ready to leave my town. Whether the world helps us or not, we will defend our city. Kobane will be the cemetery of Isis.”Reuse content