70,000 Flee IS into Turkey

70,000 Flee IS into Turkey70,000 Flee IS into Turkey


As many as 70,000 Syrian Kurds have poured into Turkey since Friday fleeing an offensive by Islamic State (IS) in northeastern Syria, the UN's refugee agency said Sunday.

The UNHCR "is stepping up its response to help Turkey come to the aid of an estimated 70,000 Syrians who crossed into Turkey in the last 24 hours," the agency said in a statement, as reported by AFP.

The exodus was prompted by intense clashes between IS and Kurdish fighters trying to hold off the jihadists' assault on the town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds.

It is the third-largest Kurdish town in Syria and a strategic prize because it lies on the border with Turkey in northern Aleppo province.

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said IS fighters were within just 10 kilometres (six miles) of the strategic border town.

The Kurdish militia who have been battling to defend the town have lost 27 fighters since the militants launched their offensive last Tuesday, the Observatory said.

IS has lost at least 37 of their fighters, said the Britain-based monitoring group, which relies on a network of doctors and activists for its reports.

"The great majority of those killed on the militant side have been foreigners, among them Chechens and (Persian) Gulf Arabs," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

On Saturday, the Observatory said 300 Kurdish fighters had entered Syria from Turkey to reinforce the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) fighting IS.

> A Call to Arms

Meanwhile, Kurdish militants in Turkey have issued a new call to arms to defend the border town of Kobane from advancing Islamic State fighters, and the Turkish, Reuters reported.

A Kurdish commander on the ground said Islamic State had advanced to within 15 km (9 miles) of Kobane, whose strategic location has been blocking the IS militants from consolidating their gains across northern Syria.

A Kurdish politician from Turkey who visited Kobane on Saturday said locals had told him that Islamic State fighters were beheading people as they went from village to village.

"Rather than a war this is a genocide operation ... They are going into the villages and cutting the heads of one or two people and showing them to the villagers," Ibrahim Binici, a deputy for Turkey's pro-Kurdish HDP, told Reuters.

"It is truly a shameful situation for humanity," he said, calling for international intervention. Five of his fellow MPs planned a hunger strike outside U.N. offices in Geneva to press for action, he said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, killing 10 insurgents and bringing the number of Islamic State fighters killed to at least 39. At least 27 Kurdish fighters have died.

Islamic State has seized at least 64 villages around Kobane since the onslaught started on Tuesday, using heavy arms and thousands of fighters. It executed at least 11 civilians on Saturday, including at least two boys, the Observatory said.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a rebel group which has spent three decades fighting for autonomy for Turkey's Kurds, renewed a call for the youth of Turkey's mostly Kurdish southeast to rise up and rush to save Kobane.

"Supporting this heroic resistance is not just a debt of honor of the Kurds but all Middle East people. Just giving support is not enough, the criterion must be taking part in the resistance," it said in a statement on its website.

"ISIL (Islamic State) fascism must drown in the blood it spills ... The youth of North Kurdistan (southeast Turkey) must flow in waves to Kobane," it said.

Hundreds of people gathered in solidarity for a third day on the Turkish side of the barbed wire border fence near the town of Suruc, where many of the refugees have crossed. Security forces trying to maintain order fired tear gas and water cannon and some protesters started throwing stones at them in frustration.