Kurdish forces push back Islamic State in northern Syria

Updated 26 September 2014

Kurdish forces push back Islamic State in northern Syria

BEIRUT/KARACA, Turkey: Kurdish forces in northern Syria pushed back an advance by Islamic State fighters toward a strategic town on the Turkish border on Thursday and appealed for US-led air strikes to target the insurgents’ tanks and heavy armaments.
Islamic State launched a new offensive to try to capture the border town of Kobani more than a week ago, besieging it from three sides. At least 140,000 Kurds have fled the town and surrounding villages since Friday, crossing into Turkey.
Kurdish and Islamic State fighters exchanged artillery and machine gun fire in a cluster of villages about 15 km (9 miles) west of Kobani, where the frontline appeared not to have moved significantly for several days, a Reuters witness said.
Kurdish officials meanwhile said Islamic State had concentrated their fighters south of the town late on Wednesday and had pushed toward it, but that the main Kurdish armed group in northern Syria, the YPG, had repelled them overnight.
“The YPG responded and pushed them back to about 10-15 km (6-9 miles) away,” Idris Nassan, deputy minister for foreign affairs in the Kobani canton, told Reuters by telephone.
Syrian Kurdish refugees watching the fighting from a hill on the Turkish side of the border said the Islamic State insurgents had not been able to advance from positions they had taken up in olive groves west of Kobani.
Turkish military vehicles patrolled their side of the border, with soldiers occasionally moving people away from the hill overlooking the fighting. Heavy weapons fire could also be heard further away from the border inside Syrian territory.
The town’s location has been blocking the Sunni Muslim insurgents from consolidating their gains in northern Syria. The group tried to take the town in July but was repulsed by local forces backed by Kurdish fighters from Turkey.
The YPG on Thursday renewed calls for US-led air strikes to hit Islamic State positions around Kobani.
“Although all ISIS positions and their heavy armaments, including tanks and armored vehicles around Kobani, are clear and within view for everyone on the front line, it is worth noting that these targets have not been bombed yet,” YPG spokesman Redur Xelil said.
“We are of the utmost readiness to cooperate with the international coalition forces against terrorism and give it detailed information about the main targets,” he said.

TURKISH CONCERNS
Turkey has been slow to join calls for a coalition to fight Islamic State in Syria, worried in part about links between Syrian Kurds and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a militant group which waged a three-decade campaign against the Turkish state for greater Kurdish rights.
The PKK has called on Turkey’s Kurds to join the fight to defend Kobani and accused Ankara of supporting Islamic State. Residents in the border area say hundreds of youths have done so, although Turkish security forces have been trying to keep them from crossing the frontier.
Turkey strongly denies it has given any form of support to the Islamist militants but Western countries say its open borders during Syria’s three-year civil war allowed Islamic State and other radical groups to grow in power.
Ocalan Iso, a Kurdish defense official, confirmed that YPG forces had stemmed Islamic State’s advances south of Kobani, known as Ayn Al-Arab in Arabic.
“As our fighters secured the area, we found 12 Islamic State bodies,” he said by telephone. Islamic State fighters also remain to the east and west of the town and fighting continues in the south.
Both men said they had also heard warplanes flying over Kobani late on Wednesday for the first time, but it was not clear exactly which areas they were targeting.
A third night of US-led air strikes on Wednesday targeted Islamic State-controlled oil refineries in eastern Syria, US officials said.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war, said eight YPG fighters had been killed in overnight clashes.


Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

Updated 19 October 2019

Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

  • A video emerged on social media showing actress Nadine Al-Rassi preparing to set fire to a car tire in downtown Beirut
  • In a series of tweets, Lebanese recording artist Elissa, who is abroad, supported the protesters’ demands

BEIRUT: Lebanese celebrities joined thousands of protesters on the streets of Beirut on Saturday to voice their anger at the country’s ruling elite.
Singers, actors and playwrights were among a host of high-profile artists who backed demands for action over government corruption and to counter Lebanon’s spiralling economic crisis.
Beirut has been shrouded in smoke for three days following widespread protests and rioting over government tax plans.
A video emerged on social media showing actress Nadine Al-Rassi preparing to set fire to a car tire in downtown Beirut and crying inconsolably about her financial state.
The actress, wearing jeans and her face blackened, told protesters: “I am Nadine Al-Rassi. I was hungry for seven days. I have debts. Banque du Liban (Lebanon’s central bank) seized my house and I am unable to rent a home. Corrupt people should be held responsible.”


In a series of tweets, Lebanese recording artist Elissa, who is abroad, supported the protesters’ demands, saying: “This is the first time I wish I were in Lebanon. My heart is with you.”
In another tweet, the high-profile singer, one of the Middle East’s best-selling performers, said: “I proudly follow the news of Beirut and its citizens ... who are demanding a decent life. It is time for people to get back their dignity.”
Meanwhile, singer and composer Ragheb Alama expressed his dismay at a Council of Ministers plan to impose a daily fee on WhatsApp calls.
“The people’s misfortunes are not funny. Why don’t you tax the polluted air people breathe? It is a great idea that brings money to your fathers’ treasury, too,” he wrote.
Alama accused the Parliament of responsibility for the country’s dire economy: “Why do deputies receive money, privileges and overheads, and what have they done? They covered up for looting and stealing for decades. They are responsible for destroying the economy and the country.”
Nancy Ajram, one of the Arab world’s most popular singers, wrote on Twitter: “My heart goes out to my country every moment and with every heartbeat. We are a people who deserves to live and it is our right to live with dignity. May God protect Lebanon.”
Singer and actress Haifa Wehbe tweeted: “There is nothing better than the Lebanese people when they stand in unity and under one slogan, without any political affiliation. We are all for our country.”
Comedian and prime-time TV host Hisham Haddad was among celebrities who joined protesters at Riad El-Solh Square, near the Prime Minister’s office, site of the biggest centralized demonstrations.
Actress Maguy Bou Ghosn, singer Moeen Shreif, actors Abdo Chahine, Badih Abou Chakra and Junaid Zeineldine, playwright Ziad Itani and musician Ziyad Sahhab also joined the protests.
Actor Wissam Hanna called on Twitter for protesters to close the Beirut Airport road to stop corrupt officials fleeing the country.
“I am all for closing down the airport road to stop thieves from fleeing. I am all for recovering stolen funds. Lebanon rises, revolts and it is time to hold them accountable,” he wrote.
Actress Gretta Aoun said: “We have to take to the streets. They must know the extent of our pain.”