For the first time, a small group of Syrian rebels have been permitted to transit Turkish territory en route to the fight against militants of the self-declared Islamic State in the besieged border city of Kobani.
The Associated Press reports, citing Syrian activists and Kurdish officials, that the group of around 50 armed men are from the Free Syrian Army. It was reported earlier that Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters were also being allowed to cross from Turkey.
“They will be in our town today,” Adham Basho, a member of the Syrian Kurdish National Council from Kobani, was quoted by Reuters as saying of the peshmerga, confirming that a group of between 90 and 100 fighters had arrived in Sanliurfa overnight.
The AP says:
“Idriss Nassan, a Kurdish official from Kobani, said the FSA group crossed to Kobani through the Mursitpinar border crossing in Turkey. Nassan, who spoke in Mursitpinar, said they travelled in cars but did not have more details.
“The FSA is an umbrella group of mainstream rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad. The political leadership of the Western-backed FSA is based in Turkey, where fighters often seek respite from the fighting.”
On Tuesday, The New York Times reported:
“About 150 [peshmerga] fighters were expected to arrive near Kobani as early as Tuesday night, joining a battle that has stretched for more than a month despite continued airstrikes by the United States-led military coalition against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
“The arrival of the [peshmerga] had been expected for more than a week, after Turkey announced that it would let the Iraqi fighters cross the border. The cause of the delay was unclear, but Kurdish officials in Kobani had initially seemed cool to the idea of outside forces entering the city.”
The reinforcements in Kobani come amid weeks of airstrikes by the U.S. and coalition allies on ISIS positions around the city.
As Reuters notes:
“Turkey’s government views the Syrian Kurds defending Kobani as loyal to what Ankara regards as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. That group has waged a 30-year insurgency in Turkey and is designated a terrorist group by the U.S. and NATO.
“Under pressure to take greater action against the IS militants — from the West as well as from Kurds inside Turkey and Syria — 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 PKK.”