Syrian rebels have joined efforts to protect the besieged Syrian town of Kobane, as Kurdish fighters continue to wait for the arrival of 150 Iraqi Kurdish troops in the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Syrian Kurdish fighters in Kobane told Al Jazeera that at the request of the Turkish government, 50 Arab fighters from the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) arrived in the embattled town on Wednesday in a move aimed at halting ISIL’s advance across northern Syria.
Newaf Khalil, a senior Syrian Kurdish official, said the FSA fighters were only equipped with light arms and machineguns.
The FSA, an umbrella group of mainstream rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has been battling ISIL across Syria after the armed group abducted activists and assassinated several of its commanders.
Kobane, near the Turkish border, has become a crucial battleground in the war against ISIL, which is fighting to extend areas under its control in Iraq and Syria, where it has declared an Islamic ‘”caliphate” that has not been widely recognised.
Syrian Kurdish fighters, known as the People’s Protection Units or YPG, have been holding out for weeks against ISIL’s offensive, despite dozens of coalition air strikes against the group’s positions.
Syrian Kurdish officials said they were still awaiting the arrival of around 150 Iraqi Peshmerga fighters on Wednesday, after Turkey finally allowed reinforcements through its territory.
|Iraq’s Peshmerga fighters en route to Kobane|
A convoy of trucks carrying troops equipped with heavy artillery, rocket launchers and machineguns crossed the Iraqi-Turkish border early on Wednesday to aid the YPG fighting ISIL.
Kurdish fighters in Syria have repeatedly said they do not not need more fighters, only weapons, and are mistrustful of Turkey’s intentions, accusing it of trying to dilute YPG influence in Kobane.
Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from the Turkey-Syria border, said that while Kurdish fighters do not believe reinforcements alone will be effective in pushing back ISIL, heavy weaponry will be decisive in pushing ISIL out of the town.
“While air strikes have allowed the Kurds to hold the town, ISIL controls about 40 percent of Kobane in the east and south, and weapons will be crucial in the fight to push them back.”
Ankara views the YPG defending Kobane as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a group that has waged a 30-year insurgency in Turkey and has been designated a “terrorist” group by the US and NATO.