After Kobane, Kurds Set Sights on Taking Back Tal Abyad

After taking Kobane, Syrian Kurdish forces are moving forward and have set their sights on taking back Tal Abyad from jihadists, AFP reported on Monday, citing a local monitor.

Tal Abyad, located about 65 kilometers (40 miles) east of Kobane, is an Arab and Kurd town in the Syrian province of Raqa used by jihadists of the Islamic State (ISIS) group to cross into Turkey.

The Sunni extremist ISIS seized Tal Abyad from Kurdish and rebel combatants who have been fighting to oust the regime of Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad since 2011.

After four months of fierce fighting, the Kurds and rebels recaptured Kobane in January, and they have since also reclaimed a third of the villages in the area, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"The next battle after Kobane is Tal Abyad," Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the Britain-based monitoring group, said on Monday, according to AFP.

"The Kurds and a Raqa revolutionary brigade arrived on Monday at the edge of Raqa province," he added.

An activist in Raqa said the battle for villages around Tal Abyad had already begun, forcing people to flee across the border into Turkey.

"Tal Abyad is so important to ISIS that it has dug tunnels in the area and built fortifications on the town's outskirts," said the activist who identified himself as Nael Mustafa.

"The battle will take a long time, but it's a start."

On another front, further west in the province of Aleppo, "ISIS sent reinforcements to protect its strongholds of Minbej and Jarabulus which could also be a target for the Kurdish fighters," said Abdel Rahman.

ISIS has taken advantage of the Syrian civil war and instability in Iraq to seize chunks of territory in the two countries, where it has committed atrocities that the UN has denounced as crimes against humanity.

A U.S.-led coalition which includes Arab and other Western countries, has targeted its positions with air strikes since September.

Secretary of State John Kerry  said on Sunday that the assault against ISIS was beginning to win back territory and deprive the jihadists of key funds.

There have been 2,000 air strikes on ISIS since the coalition's formation in August, Kerry told the Munich Security Conference.

The air war had helped to retake some 700 square kilometers (270 square miles) of territory, or "one-fifth of the area they had in their control", he said.

Kerry added the coalition had "deprived the militants of the use of 200 oil and gas facilities… disrupted their command structure… squeezed its finance and dispersed its personnel."

Later on Sunday, Top U.S. envoy John Allen said that Iraqi forces will begin a ground offensive "in the weeks ahead" to take back swathes of the country seized by ISIS.

"There will be a major counter offensive on the ground in Iraq," he said in an interview with Jordan's official Petra news agency.

"In the weeks ahead, when the Iraqi forces begin the ground campaign to take back Iraq, the coalition will provide major firepower associated with that," he added, stressing that the Iraqis would lead the offensive.

AFP contributed to this report.

Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/191149

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