Iraqi Kurds advanced against Islamic State militants near a key border crossing with Syria on Tuesday, the Kurdish Peshmerga military said.
Peshmerga forces entered the Iraqi border district of Rabia and are engaged in fierce clashes with Islamic State militants, Jabar Yavar, the secretary general of the Ministry of Peshmerga, told Iraq’s Al-Mada Press.
Sources in the Peshmerga told dpa that 10 villages near the Rabia border crossing had been taken from the jihadists.
The capture of Rabia is seen as crucial in the Kurds’ fight against the Sunni extremist group because it would link the Iraqi Kurdish forces with the Syrian Kurds under attack on their side of the border.
The militants have captured four villages from the Kurds as they attempt to advance toward Yarubiyah, the Syrian border checkpoint controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Some 300 kilometres west of Rabia, YPG fighters were battling Islamic State forces around the Syrian town of Kobane, the smallest of three Kurdish-controlled areas located near the Turkish border.
The jihadists are threatening to overrun Kobane, and as many as 200,000 Kurdish civilians have reportedly fled their homes since the offensive began two weeks ago.
Islamic State fighters had advanced to within 2 kilometres of the town, Observatory director Rami Abdel-Rahman told dpa.
Kurdish authorities in Kobane have appealed for help from the US-led coalition against the Islamic State, offering to provide coordinates for strikes on the jihadists.
The coalition launched overnight airstrikes against the jihadist group’s positions to the east and west of Kobane, the Britain-based Observatory reported.
Turkey has sent 35 armoured vehicles to its border region with Syria, the pro-government newspaper Sabah reported.
The Turkish parliament is scheduled to debate whether to authorize the government to take military action in Syria, joining the international coalition against the Islamic State militants.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for a “safe zone” on the Syrian side of the border that could be protected by Turkish and international forces.
Sabah reported that 10,000 Turkish troops are ready to join the effort should parliament give its approval. Another 5,000 soldiers are being held in reserve.
The Observatory reported on Monday that Turkish guards had been pulled out of the Kobane-Mursitpinar border crossing after shells from the fighting landed there.