Kurds urge more air strikes in Kobani

Kurdish forces have urged a U.S.-led coalition to escalate air strikes on Islamic State fighters.

A picture taken from Turkey shows smoke rising after an airstrike by an alleged alliance war plane on the Islamic State targets in the west of Kobani, Syria, where Kurdish fighters YPG are trying to defend the city, near Suruc district, Sanliurfa, Turkey 08 October 2014. Picture: EPA/Sedat Suna.

TURKEY/BEIRUT - Kurdish forces defending Kobani urged a U.S.-led coalition to escalate air strikes on Islamic State fighters who tightened their grip on the Syrian town at the border with Turkey on Saturday.

A group that monitors the Syrian civil war said the Kurdish forces faced inevitable defeat in Kobani if Turkey did not open its border to let through arms, something Ankara has appeared reluctant to do.

The U.S.-led coalition escalated air strikes on Islamic State in and around Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, some four days ago. The main Kurdish armed group, the YPG, said in a statement the air strikes had inflicted heavy losses on Islamic State, but had been less effective in the last two days.

A Kurdish military official, speaking to Reuters from Kobani, said street fighting was making it harder for the warplanes to target Islamic State positions.

"We have a problem, which is the war between houses," said Esmat Al-Sheikh, head of the Kobani defence council.

"The air strikes are benefiting us, but Islamic State is bringing tanks and artillery from the east. We didn't see them with tanks, but yesterday we saw T-57 tanks," he added.

While Islamic State has been able to reinforce its fighters, the Kurds have not. Islamic State has besieged the town to the east, south and west, meaning the Kurds' only possible supply route is the Turkish border to the north.

The U.N. envoy to Syria on Friday called on Turkey to help prevent a slaughter in Kobani, asking it to let "volunteers" cross the frontier to reinforce Kurdish forces defending the town that lies within sight of Turkish territory.

Turkey has yet to respond to the remarks by Staffan de Mistura, who said he feared a repeat of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia. Kurdish leaders in Syria have asked Ankara to establish a corridor through Turkey to allow aid and military supplies to reach Kobani.

A senior Kurdish militant has threatened Turkey with a new Kurdish revolt if it sticks with its current policy of non-intervention in the battle for Kobani.

Islamic State "is getting supplies and men, while Turkey is preventing Kobani from getting ammunition. Even with the resistance, if things stay like this, the Kurdish forces will be like a car without fuel," said Rami Abdelrahman, who runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict in Syria through sources on the ground.

U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Saturday that retired General John Allen, a U.S. envoy charged with building an international coalition against Islamic State, had just returned to Washington and reported progress.

"There was considerable progress made by General Allen specifically with Turkey," Hagel told a news conference in Santiago. He said U.S. military teams would hold talks in Turkey next week.

"They'll be spending a good deal (of time) next week with Turkey's general staff and appropriate leaders going through the specifics of Turkey's commitments to help the coalition specifically to train and equip areas of their contribution," he added.