The Islamic State (IS) group yesterday launched a two-pronged offensive in northern Syria after several setbacks, re-entering the symbolic battleground town of Kobane and seizing parts of the city of Hasakeh.
In southern Syria, an alliance of rebel groups, including al-Qaeda affiliate the al-Nusra Front, also attacked government-held areas of the city of Daraa.
Analysts said the surprise Islamic State assaults were aimed at diverting Kurdish forces after they scored a series of victories and advanced on the extremists’ Syrian stronghold of Raqa.
Kobane, on the border with Turkey, became an important symbol in the battle against the Islamic State after the group, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, launched a bid to take it last year.
Kurdish forces backed by US-led air strikes waged a four-month battle to repel the group, finally securing the town in January.
However, yesterday the extremists returned, detonating a suicide car bomb near the border crossing adjacent to Kobane as they launched an assault.
“Fierce clashes erupted afterward in the center of the town and there are bodies lying in the streets,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
He said at least 12 civilians and Kurdish fighters had been killed in the car bomb and the subsequent fighting in the town, along with eight Islamic State militants.
A few hours later, two more car bombs detonated near the border, but there were no immediate details on casualties.
Islamic State militants also entered a Kurdish village about 20km south of Kobane yesterday morning, executing at least 23 residents, among them women and children, the Observatory said.
The militants withdrew from Barkh Butan after US-led coalition strikes on the outskirts of the village and the arrival of Kurdish forces, the Observatory said.
Since being pushed out of Kobane at the start of the year, the Islamic State has suffered a string of defeats at the hands of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units and their Arab rebel allies.
As the Kobane attack began yesterday, Islamic Sate fighters also entered the northeastern city of Hasakeh.
By yesterday morning, Islamic State fighters controlled two neighborhoods of Hasakeh, capital of a Kurdish-majority province in the northeast, the Observatory said, adding that at least 30 government loyalists and 20 jihadists were killed in the fighting.
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