As many as 200,000 people have fled a Syrian Kurdish area, a monitor group says
Kurdish fighters from Turkey are arriving on the border to join the fight against ISIS
Official: "ISIS brought weapons from Iraq and Raqqa. They have tanks, RPGs, cannons"
The number of Syrian refugees in Turkey surpasses 130,000, a U.N. official says.
The sudden, massive flood of refugees fleeing ISIS is unlike any other displacement in the 3½-year Syrian conflict.
As many as 200,000 people have left the area surrounding the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, in just four days as ISIS advances into the area, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday. Most have gone into Turkey, the London-based monitoring group said.
Turkey’s semiofficial Anadolu news agency and the United Nations said 130,000 Syrian refugees have entered Turkey since Friday.
But the unprecedented surge that broke loose Friday has slowed, as Turkey reduced the number of open crossings from eight or nine to just two, said Ariane Rummery, a spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency.
Processing the refugees is also taking time.
New arrivals are being searched for arms, receiving medical checks, being identified and receiving ID cards that they can use in Turkey to show their status to local authorities.
“Children are being vaccinated,” Rummery said.
Fight to prevent massacre
Inside Syria, a Kurdish official complained about the border becoming more difficult to cross. “Now, they stop people and make a procedure before letting them in,” Idris Nassan said in Kobani.
The town is fighting ISIS with determination, he said. “Every moment of every second of every day, we have clashes ongoing outside the center of Kobani,” Nassan said.
But ISIS, which also calls itself the “Islamic State,” has bigger, better weapons than the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, known as YPG, the initials for their name in Kurdish.
“ISIS brought weapons from Iraq and Raqqa. They have tanks, RPGs, cannons,” Nassan said.
Turkish Kurds help
But Kurdish fighters from Turkey are crossing into Syria to help.
“I saw groups of them last night walking inside the city, getting ready to go to the fighting,” Nassan said. “Some were experienced fighters and others civilian volunteers to help the resistance.” New men arrive every day and are eager to join. “It helps with morale,” Nassan said.
It’s making a difference. “Over the last two days, YPG has been making progress. Before that, ISIS was advancing, and YPG was retreating, but the situation has changed now, and the YPG is making a strong response,” Nassan said.
Kobani may be hanging on, but ISIS has captured some 60 villages in recent days, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The terror group’s fighters took 39 villages on Friday alone, as Kurdish forces withdrew from their positions.
The fight is no longer about holding on to their hometowns, Kurdish activist Mostafa Baly said from Kobani.
“It is about resisting the attack by ISIS and defending 50,000 Kurds from a massacre.”
Turmoil in Turkey
ISIS’ offensive is stoking tensions in Turkey.
As Turkish Kurds have responded to their ethnic brothers and sisters in Syria, friction has heated up between the Kurdistan Workers Party and Turkish security forces, who used tear gas and water cannons against them in several clashes.
The number of Syrian refugees now in Turkey since the beginning of the conflict is approaching 1.6 million, according to the Turkish government.
Turkey may now feel freer to join the fight against ISIS.
The release of 49 Turkish citizens taken hostage when ISIS took control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in June has removed a barrier to Turkey joining the international call to form a coalition to fight ISIS, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday. He was quoted by his country’s semi-official news agency Anadolu.
CNN’s Gul Tuysuz reported from Istanbul, Turkey, and CNN’s Ben Brumfield and Josh Levs reported from Atlanta. CNN’s Salma Abdelaziz, Yousuf Basil and Jennifer Deaton contributed to this report.