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ISIS fight intensifies as fighter jets roar over Kobani, Syria

Fighter jets roared over Kobani, Syria, and gunfire echoes across the Turkish border from the town, as fighting steadily intensifies between ISIS fighters and Kurdish rebels.

Airstrikes by U.S.-led coalition called effective but not enough to defeat the jihadis, Kurd says

People watch the Syrian town of Kobani from near the Mursitpinar border crossing, on the Turkish-Syrian border. ISIS is believed to control more than a third of the town, and Kurds there want more weapons. (Gokhan Sahin/Getty)

Fighter jets roared over Kobani, Syria, on Thursday, and gunfire echoed across the Turkish border from the town, as fighting steadily intensified between ISIS  fighters and Kurdish rebels.

The advance of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria fighters on Kobani stalled on Thursday according to a monitoring group, after U.S.-led coalition warplanes launched their heaviest bombardment yet on the militants, who have been assaulting the Syrian border town for nearly a month.

Last week, Turkish and U.S. officials said Islamic State were on the verge of taking Kobani from its heavily outgunned Kurdish defenders, after seizing strategic points deep inside the town.

A dramatic ramping-up of coalition air strikes reached a new crescendo in recent days, with ISIS  targets around Kobani being hit almost 40 times in 48 hours.

The barrage has halted the militants' advance, with Kurdish sources saying that Kurdish YPG fighters had managed to retake some territory.

The Pentagon said on Wednesday that U.S.-led air strikes have killed several hundred Islamic State fighters around Kobani, but it cautioned that the town could still fall to the Sunni militant group.

Smoke rises after an U.S.-led airstrike on ISIS fighters trying to take the Syrian border town of Kobani earlier this week. The town has become the focus of international attention since the Islamists' advance drove 180,000 of the area's mostly Kurdish inhabitants to flee into adjoining Turkey. (Reuters)

The four-week assault has increasingly been seen as a key test of U.S. President Barack Obama's air strike strategy, and Kurdish leaders have repeatedly said the beleaguered town cannot survive without arms and ammunition reaching the defenders — something neighbouring Turkey has so far refused to allow.

ISIS has been keen to take the town to consolidate its position in northern Syria after seizing large amounts of territory in that country and in Iraq.

A defeat in Kobani would be a major setback for the militant Islamists and a boost for Obama.

Earlier Thursday, a Syrian Kurdish official called on the international community to allow weapons into the border town of Kobani, saying the town is still in danger from ISIS militants.

Since mid-September

Idriss Nassan, deputy head of Kobani's foreign relations committee, said ISIS can bring in reinforcements and weapons at any time and endanger the town near Turkey. He said airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition are "effective" but not enough to defeat the jihadis.

Nassan's comments came a day after the Pentagon spokesman said Kobani remains under threat of falling to the ISIS fighters. U.S. Rear Adm. John Kirby said two weeks of airstrikes have killed hundreds of ISIS fighters, and have stiffened Kobani's defenders.

ISIS launched its offensive on Kobani in mid-September, capturing dozens of nearby Kurdish villages and a third of the town in lightning advances that sent massive waves of civilians fleeing across the border into Turkey.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the death toll since the ISIS offensive began has reached more than 660. It said the dead include 20 civilians, 258 Kurdish fighters, 374 jihadi fighters and nine Syrian rebels who are fighting on the Kurds' side.

Send food, medicine, more weaponry

The Observatory and Nassan reported sporadic clashes in Kobani early Thursday, as well as sniper fire on the eastern and southeastern edge of the town.

"From the start we said the coalition's airstrikes will not be able to save Kobani or to defeat Daesh in the area," Nassan said by telephone, using an Arabic acronym to refer to ISIS. "We call upon the international community to open a humanitarian safe passage to allow in food, medicine, and weapons supplies."

"Kobani is not fighting for itself alone. Kobani is fighting for the world community. This is a battle against terrorism and therefore all world countries are asked to participate in this resistance," he said.

Bolstered by intensified U.S.-led coalition airstrikes targeting ISIS, Kurdish militiamen were able to regain some of the positions they lost over the past few days.

With files from The Asociated Press

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