FSA rebels enter Kobani to fight ISIL

It is not clear what effect this small but battle-hardened combined force of FSA and peshmerga fighters — and their combined weaponry and added arsenal — will have in the battle for Kobani.

Cheers from the crowds as Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga troops arrive in Mardin, southeastern Turkey on October 29, 2014. The peshmergas are on their way to Syria to help Syrian Kurds fighting ISIL militants in the embattled border town of Kobani. AP Photo
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MURSITPINAR, Turkey // A small group of Syrian rebels entered the embattled Syrian town of Kobani from Turkey on Wednesday to help combat ISIL.

The approximately 50 armed men are from the Free Syrian Army, and separate from Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga who were also en route on Wednesday to Kobani, a town situated along the Syrian-Turkish border.

Idriss Nassan, a Kurdish official from Kobani, said the FSA group entered Kobani through the Mursitpinar border crossing in Turkey.

The FSA is an umbrella group of mainstream rebels fighting to topple Syrian president Bashar Al Assad.

The 150 Iraqi peshmerga troops, along with cannons and heavy machine guns, arrived in Turkey from Iraq on Wednesday and were expected to cross into Syria later in the day.

Kurdish fighters in Syria, known as the People’s Protection Units, have been struggling to defend Kobani against ISIL since mid-September, despite dozens of coalition airstrikes against the extremists.

It is not clear what effect this small but battle-hardened combined force of FSA and peshmerga fighters — and their combined weaponry and added arsenal — will have in the battle for Kobani.

Kurdish fighters are already sharing information with the US-led anti-ISIL coalition to coordinate strikes against the militants there but the new force may help improve efforts and offer additional battlefield support.

The fighting in Kobani has deadlocked in recent days, with neither side able to get the upper hand in the battle.

ISIL launched its offensive on Kobani and nearby Syrian villages in mid-September, killing more than 800 people, activists say. The extremists captured dozens of Kurdish villages around Kobani and control parts of the town. More than 200,000 people have fled across the border into Turkey.

Under pressure to take greater action against ISIL the Turkish government agreed to let the fighters cross through its territory. But it only is allowing the peshmerga forces from Iraq, with whom it has a good relationship, and not those from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Turkey’s government views the Syrian Kurds defending Kobani as loyal to what Ankara regards as an extension of the PKK. That group has waged a 30-year insurgency in Turkey and is designated a terrorist group by the US and Nato.

Fighting continued on Wednesday across many parts of Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that more than 30 Syrian soldiers and allied militiamen and guards were killed in clashes with ISIL militants who attacked the government-controlled Shaer gasfield in the central Homs province.

Also on Wednesday, a car bomb exploded in a government-held district of Homs city, killing at least one person and wounding 25 others, an official in the Homs governorate said.

Syrian regime aircraft killed at least 10 people when they dropped barrel bombs on a camp housing displaced persons Wednesday in the northeastern province of Idlib.

In Iraq, ISIL lined up 30 Sunni men in western town of Hit and shot them dead Wednesday, an official and residents said, the latest mass killing carried out by the group.

The militants first paraded the men through town, shouting through loudspeakers that the captured men were apostates who fought against them, residents said. The extremists then lined up the men and shot them dead with assault rifles, residents said.

* Associated Press