Ayn al-Arab has now become the focal point of fighting between ISIS and Syrian Kurds. ISIS has shown a remarkable ability and willingness to change direction and fronts quickly to attack new targets. With their advance to the south and east blocked by Iraqi and Iraqi-Kurdish forces, ISIS has now begun to turn on its heals and advance on Syrian territories.
ISIS in possession of heavy military equipment
With ISIS now in possession of heavy military equipment including tanks, however, the lightly armed Kurdish forces will have trouble contending with the Islamic militants. Kurds refer to Ayn al-Arab as Kobani, and local authorities fear that the city could soon fall into the hands of militants.
Kurdish volunteers from Turkey are also pouring into Syria to help the Kurdish populations located there. Lacking the heavy armor that ISIS now possess, however, it’s difficult to see how they can stop their advance.
The Kurdish militia did score a major victory, managing to stave off the advance of one column of troops. With ISIS forces surrounding the city, however, it looks like it will only be a matter of time before the city falls. Local Kurdish authorities are now calling for international intervention. Beyond perhaps a few air strikes, however, it’s unlikely that the West will do much.
Syrian Kurds Fleeing To Turkey
It’s estimated that as many as 200,000 Syrians have fled into Syria and with ISIS making advances in Syrian-Kurdish regions the number will likely rise in the days to come. With ISIS heavily persecuted minorities, any non-traditional Sunni Arabs are feeling especially intense pressure to flee.
The United Nations estimates that most of the people fleeing into Turkey. So far most of those fleeing from the onslaught are women, children, and the elderly. It appears that most men of age are staying behind to try to stop ISIS, or at least buy those fleeing more time to escape to safety.
Turkey is already struggling to deal with the massive influx of refugees, which now marks the largest displacement from the Syrian conflict. Turkey closed the number of border crossings down from 9 to 2. This will almost certainly create jam points, which may allow Turkey more time to adjust to the influx, but will also leave thousands of people vulnerable behind enemy lines.
New arrivals are being searched for arms and weapons. It’s possible that ISIS will try to infiltrate refugee camps and to attempt to attack them from the inside out. Refugees are also receiving medical checkups and vaccinations.