Rauf Maltas / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Iraqi Kurdish reinforcements arrive to defend Kobane

Syrian Kurds defending Kobane from ISIL are in good spirits following the arrival of Iraqi Kurds with heavy artillery

Iraqi Kurdish forces arrived in the Syrian town of Kobane with heavy weapons to help Syrian Kurds fend off attempts by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to seize the town and cement control in the Turkish border region.

Syrian Kurdish fighters welcomed the group of 150 peshmerga fighters and said the weapons they had brought with them could help tip the balance in a battle that has raged for more than 40 days.

The peshmerga are expected to take part in the military action in Kobane in the next few hours, Kurdish officials said.

"What was lacking is the weapons and ammunition, so the arrival of more of it plus the fighters will help tip the balance of the battle," Idris Nassan, deputy foreign minister of Kobane district, told Reuters by telephone from Kobane.

"The whole issue is the weapons and ammunition, of course more fighters will help," said Nassan.

At least one U.S.-led airstrike hit an ISIL position near Kobane on Saturday, he added. "The sun is shining and the sky is clear so the warplanes can actively work today."

The arrival of the fighters marked the first time Turkey has allowed ground troops from outside Syria to cross through its territory to reinforce Syrian Kurds in besieged Kobane.

Despite having limited strategic significance, Kobane has become a powerful international symbol in the battle against the extremists who have captured large expanses of Iraq and Syria and declared an Islamic "caliphate."

"Right now the peshmerga are making preparations. They are taking up their positions, preparing their guns and are ready for combat. They will be fighting today at the front," said Enver Muslim, the top Kurdish administrative official in the Kobane district.

"Everyone here, civilians, the YPG [Syrian Kurdish militias defending the town], we are all in very good spirits after their arrival."

The U.S. military said it continued to target ISIL targets near Kobane on Thursday and Friday. Four airstrikes damaged four fighting positions used by the insurgents as well as one of its buildings.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 100 ISIL fighters were killed in the past three days.

Iraqi peshmerga were not the only group to enter the Kurdish town. Around 200 fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA), an umbrella group encompassing the so-called moderate rebels fighting both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and ISIL, have also arrived in Kobane to help defend the town.

But the FSA move drew criticism from Syrian opposition activists who urged the fighters to deploy on fronts where the Western-backed rebels were losing to Assad and Islamist groups.

On Saturday, Syria's Al-Qaeda linked Nusra Front seized Jabal al-Zawiya region, the last remaining stronghold of Western-backed rebels in Syria's northwest province of Idlib after days of fighting.

Backed by other hardline Islamist groups, the Nusra Front are waging a major military campaign against the Syria Revolutionaries' Front led by Jamal Maarouf, a key figure in the armed opposition to Assad, after accusing him of being corrupt and working for the West against them.

Sources said that dozens of Maarouf fighters defected to Nusra allowing the group to win. But Maarouf remained defiant, and in a video message broadcast after he withdrew from Jabal al-Zawiya, vowed to continue the fight.

Al Jazeera and Reuters

Related News

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter


Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter