Iraqi peshmerga fighters have begun entering the Syrian border town of Kobane where they were expected to join the battle against Islamic State and the Levant (ISIL) fighters beseiging the town.
Peshmerga forces entered through the Yumurtalik crossing on Friday armed with heavy weaponry, including anti-aircraft machine guns and mobile rocket launchers.
Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, reporting from the border, said the peshmerga entered five vehicles at a time with a few minutes between each crossing.
Fighters in the convoy were filmed waving Kurdish flags and flashing the victory sign.
ISIL fighters had escalated their attacks on the border, hurling mortars at it and sending in waves of fighters in a desperate attempt to cut it off, since news broke that the reinforcements were imminent.
The self-declared jihadist group attacked Kobane six weeks ago, capturing dozens of nearby Kurdish villages as well as parts of the border town.
The town is now under attack from three sides and weeks of US-led air strikes have failed to break the ISIL assault.
Syrian Kurds had pleaded for more men and heavy weapons to help them gain the upper hand. And, on October 22, MPs in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region gave the peshmerga the go-ahead to travel.
The peshmerga arrived in Turkey on Wednesday and had been staying in the town of Suruc.
Why ‘just’ Kobane?
Activists say there are now about 1,000 Syrian Kurdish fighters facing a force of more than 3,000 ISIL footsoldiers in the Kobane area.
In a separate development, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in Paris on Friday that the international community was focusing too much on the battle for Kobane and called for strikes in other parts of Syria.
Speaking at a news conference with French President Francois Hollande, Erdogan said, “We’re only talking about Kobane , a city on the Turkish border where there is almost no one left besides 2,000 fighters.”
“It’s difficult to understand this approach: why are coalition forces continually bombarding Kobane? Why don’t the coalition forces want to act in other zones?” Erdogan said.
A group of 50 Syrian rebels entered Kobane on Wednesday, two days before the Iraqi peshmerga – also via Turkey – in a bid to help the Kurds.
The rebels are members of the Free Syrian Army, a loose umbrella group of Western-backed rebels trying to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The peshmerga and FSA deployments were condemned by Assad’s government as an act of Turkish aggression and a “blatant violation of Syrian sovereignty.”