First airstrikes hit ISIS in Kobane outskirts

Rudaw reports: The US-led anti-Islamic State coalition launched airstrikes targeting militant strongholds on the outskirts of the beleaguered Kurdish city of Kobane for the first time early Saturday, according to local officials.

The strike follows a weeklong Islamic State (IS or ISIS) offensive that has driven over 140,000 Syrian Kurds across the Turkish border.

Ahmed Sulaiman, an official of the Democratic Progressive Party in Syria, told Rudaw that the mission targeted ISIS militants based in Jim-Hiran, Ali-Shar, Mirde Smill, and southern sections of Sheran, all villages east of Kobane, the unofficial capital of the autonomous Kurdish vilayets in Northern Syria.

The bombings began at approximately 6am, according to witnesses, and continued through the morning.

This is the first time that coalition airstrikes targeted the vicinity of the embattled Kurdish city, arriving after a week of desperate pleas from local residents and opposition militias for the coalition to intervene.

ISIS fighters retaliated by shelling the city from positions 10 kilometers away.

Residents reported five major explosions inside the city at 3:30pm. This is the first time the city itself has come under attack. [Continue reading…]

Middle East Eye adds: The US-led coalition overnight and this morning also expanded its campaign against militants in eastern and central Syria, hitting the Homs province for the first time on Saturday, and also targeting the town of Minbej, near the western limit of IS control, the Observatory said.

Further attacks were also unleashed on Raqqa, which Islamic State have made their headquarters, the Britain-based monitoring group said, while adding that IS-held oil fields had also come under attack from the air.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said the targets hit in Homs province were far away from the front line with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, who control Homs city, Syria’s third largest.

“The US-Arab coalition has for the first time struck IS bases in the eastern desert of Homs province,” Abdel Rahman said, adding that the positions were in the area of Al-Hammad, east of ancient city Palmyra.

Washington has been keen not to let Assad’s forces exploit the air campaign against IS to take the upper hand in the more than three-year-old civil war.

However, speculation about increasing cooperation between Assad and the coalition is growing. [Continue reading…]

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