Syrian Kurdish fighters say they have taken the strategic town of Tal Abyad, a major supply route to Raqqa province, a stronghold of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria.
“It’s now under complete control,” Redur Xelil, a spokesperson for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), said on Monday after a day of rapid advances in an offensive aided by US-led air strikes.
However, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there were still “some small pockets of resistance” from small groups of ISIL fighters holed up inside the town.
The Kurdish advance has caused the displacement of more than 16,000 people, who have fled to Turkey in the past two weeks.
“We were terrorised by ISIL,” a refugee told Al Jazeera. “We left because of the heavy bombardment from all sides. I’ll never go back – in there you die a hundred times a day.”
Turkish authorities agreed to open the border crossing due to increased dangers amid the battle for Tal Abyad. But the large numbers of displaced people have led to long waits, with many having to wait for at least 24 hours to cross the border.
Kurdish fighters and Syrian rebels began their main advance on the town on June 11, backed by air strikes from the US-led coalition.
Deaths in Aleppo
Elsewhere in Syria on Monday, at least 34 people were killed and 190 wounded in opposition rocket fire on government-held parts of Aleppo city, according to state media.
The Syrian Observatory said that 12 children were among those killed in the attacks.
It said opposition fighters fired about 300 rockets at several districts in western Aleppo in just four hours, causing massive damage including the collapse of an entire building.
Once Syria’s economic powerhouse, Aleppo province has been ravaged by the conflict.
Aleppo city has been divided between government control in the west and opposition control in the east since shortly after fighting spread to it in mid-2012.
Government forces regularly bombard the eastern side from the air, dropping crude barrel bombs that rights groups say are indiscriminate and can kill dozens of civilians at a time.
More than 230,000 people have been killed in Syria since the start of an anti-government uprising in March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory.