(Reuters) – Islamic State fighters edged towards a strategic town on northern Syria’s border with Turkey on Friday, battling Kurdish forces and sending at least two shells into Turkish territory, witnesses said.
Islamic State launched an offensive to try to capture the border town of Kobani more than a week ago, besieging it from three sides. More than 140,000 Kurds have fled the town and surrounding villages since last Friday, crossing into Turkey.
The Sunni insurgents appeared to have taken control of a hill from where fighters of the YPG, the main Kurdish armed group in northern Syria, had been attacking them in recent days, 10 km (6 miles) west of Kobani, a Reuters correspondent said.
Booms of artillery and bursts of machinegun fire echoed across the border, and at least two shells hit a vineyard on the Turkish side. There were no immediate reports of casualties in Turkey and paramilitary police arrived to inspect the site.
“We’re afraid. We’re taking the car and leaving today,” said vineyard owner Huseyin Turkmen, 60, as small arms fire rang out in the Syrian hills just to the south.
Kurdish forces said on Thursday they had pushed back the advance on Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, by Islamic State fighters but appealed for U.S.-led air strikes to target the insurgents’ tanks and heavy armaments.