Center for Strategic Communication

Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) engage Islamic State Humvees in the battle for Kobane in northern Syria.

The northern Syrian city of Kobane, or Ayn al Arab, is under heavy siege by Islamic State militants for the third consecutive day. The Islamic State is reported to have taken control of 21 villages outside of Kobane.

Since 2012, Kobane has been controlled by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish force affiliated with the Turkish Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. The YPG have since considered Kobane to be part of Rojava, or Syrian Kurdistan.

The Islamic State first tried to seize Kobane in July, but was fended off by the YPG, with the likely help of the PKK. Since then, there has been sporadic fighting between Kurdish forces and the Islamic State in the surrounding villages.

Three days ago, the Islamic State initiated another attempt to seize the city. Videos of the battle for Kobane indicate that the Islamic State has launched a full assault to take over the city. The videos show Islamic State fighters deploying tanks as well as several Humvees captured during recent advances in Iraq.

Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) engage and Islamic State tank in Kobane.

According to some Kurdish activists on Twitter, the Islamic State’s assault is three-pronged: it appears that the IS is attacking Kobane from the east, south, and west of the city. Additionally, the IS assault force is shelling the city, likely with mortars and rockets.

Aftermath of the Islamic State’s shelling of Kobane.

Islamic State continues to advance in Aleppo province

While the Islamic State’s advance in northern and central Iraq has been halted since the US intervened with airstrikes on Aug. 7, the group’s momentum in Syria has not been checked.

The battle for control of Kobane is the latest in the Islamic State’s campaign to extend its control of Aleppo province and seize several of the major border crossings to Turkey.

Since mid-August, the Islamic State has been pressing the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, as well as Ahrar al Sham, the Islamic Front, and other rival jihadist groups in northern Aleppo. [See LWJ report, Islamic State advances against jihadist foes in Aleppo.] Islamic State fighters have reached the outskirts of Marea, about 15 miles north of the city of Aleppo.

The Islamic State currently controls the Jarabulus crossing to the west and the Tal Abayd crossing to the east. Control of the crossings allows the IS to control the flow of weapons, recruits cash, and material coming in from Turkey, and also restricts the Kurdish rebels’ access to northern Aleppo and Raqqah provinces.

Iraqi and Syrian towns and cities seized by the Islamic State and its allies. Map created by Patrick Megahan and Bill Roggio for The Long War Journal. Click to view larger map.