Syrian refugees in Turkey pause returns to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey stop returning back to Tal Abyad after ISIS attacks northern Syrian town of Kobane near Turkish border with car bombs

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Syrian refugees have stopped returning to Tal Abyad after ISIS attacked the northern Syrian town of Kobane [Ayn al Arab in Arabic] near the Turkish border with car bombs on Thursday, restarting clashes between ISIS militants and the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the military wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Kobane.

The PYD is considered by Turkey as the Syrian affiliate of the outlawed PKK. 

The refugees have come this morning in front of the Turkish border crossing of Akcakale which is located across the Syrian border district of Tal Abyad in order to pass to the district, but they changed their minds upon hearing that Kobane has been attacked by ISIS once again. 

The Turkish media has reported they are afraid of the prospect that the clashes could also spread to Tal Abyad. 

Tal Abyad came under the domination of ISIS in June 2014 and was captured by the YPG and the Free Syrian Army ( FSA) forces on June 15. 

More than 23,000 civilians from Syrian villages and towns have crossed the Turkish border into the southeast province of Sanliurfa over the past two weeks, as the YPG along with the FSA forces had been carrying out operations with the help of US-led coalition air strikes in the northeastern regions of Tal Abyad and Al Hasakah to push back the ISIS militants. 

More than 1,700 refugees have returned to Syria following the PYD and FSA calls “to return” to Tal Abyad last week.

However, the allied militant forces closed the border crossing on the grounds that the district has been booby-trapped by the ISIS militants. 

They reopened the crossing on Monday after cleaning the district they said and then about 2,100 refugees have passed to Syria. About 100 refugees left Turkey for Syria on Tuesday.

Tal Abyad is located between Kobane and Jazira “cantons” and has a strategic importance because it commands the major trade and smuggling routes to Raqqa which is the first major city conquered by ISIS. Now, by taking control of Tal Abyad, the PYD is able to join both “cantons.”
Kurdish “cantons” of Afrin, Jazira and Kobane from west to the east in northern Syria have been proclaimed in November 2013 by the PYD following withdrawal of Syrian regime forces from mostly Kurdish inhabited areas such as Afrin, Kobane, and Amuda where the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the militant wing of the PYD, took control in July 2012 in the course of the Syrian civil war.


The Kurdish group YPG also on Tuesday captured a strategically important air base from the grip of the ISIS in the Raqqa province, and the YPG forces have reportedly kept advancing towards Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of ISIS. 

However, today at 3:00am , ISIS made a new attack on Kobane and also on Haseke which is partly held by the Syrian regime forces and partly by the YPG, apparently, in order to recover its recent losses against the YPG.  

The ISIS militants were disguised as the YPG and the FSA fighters as they attacked the city from three distinct locations, Al Jazeera reported. A number of the ISIS militants reportedly blew themselves up with explosive belts as they positioned themselves in several areas in the town.  

Anadolu Agency reported that at least 18 people were killed and 100 wounded following the attacks. 

Kobane is located across the Turkish southeastern district of Suruc in the Sanliurfa province. Some of the wounded have been brought to the Suruc and Akcakale state hospitals by passing the Turkish border and treated by the doctors there following the ISIS attacks on Kobane.  

The pro-Kurdish HDP officials and Kurdish activists via Twitter have accused Turkey of permitting the ISIS militants to enter Kobane through the Turkish border.

However, the YPG spokesman Redur Halil said, “They have no evidence that the ISIS militants have entered Kobane from Turkey,” Al Jazeera reported.

The Sanliurfa governor's office also denied such accusations and emphasised that clear evidence shows that the militants had entered Kobane from the Syrian town of Jarablus, to the west of the town.

Kobane, one of the PYD-controlled “cantons,” was besieged by ISIS in September 2014 and had been the scene of a bloody fight for four consecutive months with thousands of casualties.

In late September, the coalition forces led by the US began their first air bombing campaign against the ISIS positions around Kobane in order to support the resistance of the YPG. Reinforced by Peshmerga forces from the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq and fighters from the FSA, the YPG gradually beat back the ISIS forces and completely retook the district in late January 2015.

Turkey’s Syrian border has recently and increasingly been a scene for clashing parties of ISIS and the YPG since the battle of Kobane.

TRTWorld and agencies