About 80 Iraqi Peshmerga fighters have arrived in Turkey en route to the besieged Syrian town of Kobane to help fellow Kurds in their battle against the ISIL.
They flew into the airport at Urfa and are bound for Suruc on the border with Syria. Another convoy of 70 fighters is waiting on the Iraq-Turkey border, waiting for permits to enter Turkey for their onward journey to Kobane.
An Al Jazeera reporter earlier saw a convoy of 50-60 vehicles, including buses carrying soldiers and some vehicles towing canons, leaving the Iraqi city of Erbil on Tuesday afternoon to cross the border into Turkey.
Syrian Kurds have battled fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in and around Kobane since mid-September. Despite US-led air strikes supporting the Kurds, ISIL has kept up its assault.
Last week the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) authorised about 150 Peshmerga soldiers to go to Syria to fight.
Turkey has been reluctant to join the US-led coalition against ISIL. But after pressure from its western allies, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last Wednesday that some Peshmerga soldiers from Iraq would be allowed to transit through Turkey to Kobane.
Halgord Hekmat, spokesman for the KRG’s ministry for Peshmerga affairs, has said the soldiers are “support forces” and will be armed with automatic weapons, mortars and rocket launchers.
They are not expected to fight on the frontline.
The deployment is open-ended, with Mustafa Sayid Qadir, the Peshmerga affairs minister, saying: “They will remain there until they are no longer needed.”
ISIL has captured dozens of Kurdish villages around Kobane and now also control parts of the town. The battles have killed more than 800 people, according to activists, and sent more than 200,000 people fleeing into Turkey.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the US-led coalition carried out three air strikes on Kobane on Tuesday, targeting a gathering of ISIL fighters.
The US Central Command said more air strikes were launched in Syria and Iraq on Monday and Tuesday.
In Syria, four air strikes near Kobane destroyed four ISIL fighting positions and a small ISIL unit, a US statement said.
ISIL has taken over large expanses of land in Iraq and Syria and been accused of grave atrocities in both countries.