ISIL pushes into Syrian town despite US raids
Fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have continued to advance into the Kurdish-dominated town of Ain al-Arab in Syria, despite the US-led air campaign against the self-declared jihadist group.
More than 15,000 residents have fled the northern Syrian town as ISIL fighters pushed deeper, fighting fierce battles with Kurdish armed groups on Saturday.
Ain al-Arab, which the Kurds call Kobane, is close to the Syrian-Turkey border.
Turkish officials said that four mortar shells from the fighting in Syria landed in Turkey on Saturday, injuring two people.
Earlier on the day, US coalition-led warplanes struck ISIL positions near Ain al-Arab, as well as targets that included wheat silos in the country’s east.
Fighting have been raging in the north for two weeks as ISIL captured dozens of villages around Ain al-Arab and tried to push into the town itself.
Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from the Turkish side of the border, said smoke could be seen from the eastern side of the town after what sounded like an explosion.
Kurdish sources inside Ain al-Arab, where fighters had been preparing for street battles should ISIL manage to penetrate their defences, said they had been informed of the strikes in advance so that they could pull back from some frontlines.
Locals said the village of Alishera, just a few kilometres from the border and held by the ISIL, had been hit by one of the four strikes on Saturday morning.
No US confirmation
The US-led coalition did not say whether it had carried out the air raids in the area.
Surrounded by dozens of Kurdish refugees from Syria, Dekker said that those who left their homes seemed to be disappointed by the US-led air campaign.
“Many of the people we have spoken to do not see the usefulness of the strikes as the ISIL continues to push into their areas,” she said.
The US, backed by Arab allies, launched its first air strikes on ISIL targets in Syria on Tuesday after hitting hundreds of targets in neighbouring Iraq, where the group has also captured large swathes of territory.
In Syria, the group has established its headquarters in the northern Raqqa province, which it fully controls.
The group, which has declared an Islamic “caliphate” that has not been widely recognised, has killed hundreds of Syrian and Iraqi soldiers and also civilians, making gruesome beheadings their trademark killing method.
Activists in Raqqa told Al Jazeera that the US-led coalition had hit several ISIL positions in the province on Saturday, killing dozens of fighters.
Several attacks targeted the Tabqa air base, which the self-declared jihadists captured from the regime last month. An ISIL training camp was also hit, as well as one of the group’s checkpoints, the activists said.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported strikes for the first time in Homs province, east of the desert town of Palmyra, famed for its ancient ruins.