Turkish army uses tear gas to stop Kurdish civilians from crossing border

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Syrian Kurds take cover from the rain in the southeastern town of Suruc in the Sanliurfa province after crossing the border between Syria and Turkey after mortars hit both sides on October 2, 2014. (Photo: AFP - Bulent Kilic)

Published Monday, October 6, 2014

Updated at 3:40 pm (GMT +3): The Turkish security forces on Monday used tear gas to push dozens of reporters and Kurdish civilians away from the border zone, as they fled the intense fighting in the besieged Syrian town of Kobane.

The armed forces employed tear gas for the second day in a row to push people back from the border area which has become increasingly dangerous owing to mortars fired from Syria, an AFP correspondent reported.

"Leave or else we will intervene," the security forces ordered through loudspeakers on trucks.

Reporters, as well as local Kurds who are anxiously watching the fight for Kobane between Kurdish fighters and Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) militants, have now been pushed back to some 700 metres from the border.

The security forces had already on Sunday afternoon ordered them away from the immediate vicinity of the border area towards the town of Suruc after a mortar wounded five people on Turkish territory.

ISIS militants, who otherwise control large parts of territory in Syria and Iraq, have recently been attacking the border town of Kobane from all directions.

Around 160,000 Kurdish refugees took shelter in Turkey, according to Ankara, since the country opened its border on September 19.

Kobane

ISIS raised their flag on a building on the eastern outskirts of the Syrian border town of Kobani on Monday after an assault of almost three weeks, but the town's Kurdish defenders said they had not reached the city centre.

A black flag belonging to ISIS was visible from across the Turkish border atop a four-storey building close to the scene of some of the most intense clashes in recent days.

Local sources inside Kobani confirmed the group had planted its flag but said that Kurdish forces had repelled their advances so far.

"ISIL (ISIS) have only planted a flag on one building on the eastern side of town," said Ismail Eskin, a journalist in the town. "That is not inside the city, it's on the eastern side.They are not inside the city. Intense clashes are continuing."

"During the day sometimes IS makes advances but YPG pushes them back. There are clashes within the vicinity, but they are not inside the city, YPG is resisting," said Pawer Mohammed Ali, a translator for the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) inside Kobani.

Mortars have rained down on residential areas in Kobani and stray fire has hit Turkish territory in recent days, but Kurdish pleas for help have so far largely gone unanswered.

"If they enter Kobani, it will be a graveyard for us and for them. We will not let them enter Kobani as long as we live," Esmat al-Sheikh, head of the Kobani Defence Authority, said by telephone earlier on Monday.

"We either win or die. We will resist to the end," he added as heavy weapons fire echoed from the eastern side of town.

PKK leaders attack Turkish government

Jailed Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan has warned that peace talks between his group and the Turkish state will come to an end if ISIS militants are allowed to carry out a massacre in a predominantly Kurdish town on the Syrian border.

"If this massacre attempt achieves its goal it will end the process," Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), said in a statement last week.

"I urge everyone in Turkey who does not want the process and the democracy voyage to collapse to take responsibility in Kobani," Ocalan added.

Kurdish forces allied to the PKK, the People's Defence Units (YPG), are fighting against ISIS insurgents attacking Kobani. The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union.

Turkey has so far declined to take a frontline role in the US-led military campaign, fearful that it could strengthen Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and bolster Kurdish militants allied to Kurds in Turkey who have fought for three decades for greater autonomy.

It also argues that air strikes alone will do little to address long-term instability on its 1,200-km (750-mile) southern frontier.

According to Damascus, Turkey, a NATO member and Washington's key ally in the region, has been playing a major role in fueling the armed crisis in Syria by opening its borders and allowing free access to foreign jihadists into Syria.

(AFP, Anadolu, Reuters, Al-Akhbar

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