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Air strikes in Syria hit Islamic State-held areas near Turkey

BEIRUT: Air strikes overnight hit Islamic State-held territory in Syria near the Turkish border, near an area that tens of thousands of Kurds have fled as the militant group advanced, an organisation that tracks the Syrian war said on Wednesday.

Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the warplanes that carried out the raids around 30-35 km (19-22 miles) west of the city of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, had come from the direction o Turkey.

There was no other confirmation of air strikes in the area and Reuters could not independently verify the report.

Abdulrahman said it was not clear which country had carried out the strikes, although the planes were not believed to be from the Syrian air force, he said. Abdulrahman’s Observatory gathers its information from a network of sources across Syria.

A U.S.-led alliance started air strikes on Islamic State in Syria on Tuesday. Islamic State, which has captured land in Syria and Iraq, launched an offensive against the predominantly Kurdish town of Kobani last week, forcing more than 130,000 Syrian Kurds to flee.

A local official in central Kobani said he had not heard any air strikes close to the town overnight, but that fighting continued between Kurdish forces and Islamic State, which has been trying to consolidate its territory across northern Syria.

Idris Nassan, deputy minister for foreign affairs in the Kobani canton, said Islamic State remained around 15 km from the town in the east and west but had advanced in the south to within 10 km after heavy clashes with Kurdish forces.

“Now I hear the noise of mortars in the south,” he told Reuters by telephone. “Islamic State gathered heavy forces there. So did the YPG but Islamic State pushed them back.”

The YPG is the main Kurdish armed group.

Redur Xelil, spokesman for the YPG, said Islamic State was still pushing to take the town, despite the start of U.S.-led air strikes against the group in Syria.

“They did not withdraw from any positions and the battles are still continuing at their most intense level in Kobani and also in Ras al-Ayn,” he said, referring to Syrian territory further east along the border. – Reuters

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