Tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds who fled their homes due to fighting in Kobane have returned to find at least half of the town destroyed, Kobane officials said.
Kurdish forces announced they had pushed ISIL fighters out of the strategic border town, which lies on Syria’s northern border with Turkey.
Thousands of Kurdish refugees who were in Turkey came to the border on Tuesday hoping to cross and reach their homes as many celebrated after their town was liberated.
Al Jazeera’s Rafaat al-Rifai, reporting from Kobane, said destruction was visible everywhere, especially in places where ISIL fighters were based and later targeted by US-led air strikes.
“Kurdish forces flags are all over the town. This is a strategic victory. Now the battle is going from Kobane to the outskirts, west of the city,” he said.
Syrian Kurdish forces along with several opposition groups have been fighting ISIL in Kobane for months now, with the help of US-led coalition air strikes.
Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from the Turkish border with Syria, said several loud explosions were heard earlier as coalition fighter jets were roaming the skies.
“It seems that air strikes are ongoing south of Kobane. We also heard several explosions that sounded like mortar or rocket rounds. ISIL fighters are holed up in villages there and the Peshmerga fighters are trying to push them out of the area.
“They say they have retaken four villages so far,” our correspondent said.
Kurdish officials told Al Jazeera that around 300 ISIL fighters were believed to be in south and southeastern areas surrounding Kobane resisting the multiple factions fighting to push them out.
The US-led coalition began its operations in Iraq last August and in Syria in September. It has carried out at least 2,000 air strikes since then.
Since mid-September the battle for Kobane has killed at least 1,600 people including Kurdish fighters, ISIL fighters and civilians.
ISIL has seized large swaths of land in both Syria and Iraq, and battles several groups, including Syrian government forces.