Kurds gain ground against IS in Syria

File photo
File photo

The Syrian Kurdish YPG militia has announced that it has begun advancing towards an Islamic State-held town at the Turkish border on Saturday, penetrating deeper into the jihadists' stronghold of Raqqa province in a campaign backed by U.S.-led air strikes.

A militia spokesman told the press that the YPG and smaller Syrian Arab rebel groups fighting alongside it had begun the move towards Tel Abyad after they encircled the Islamic State-held town of Suluk 20 km (12 miles) to the southeast. Tel Abyad is important to Islamic State as the nearest border town to its de facto capital of Raqqa city.

The YPG has made a determined push into Raqqa province from neighbouring Hasaka where, with the help of the U.S.-led alliance, it has driven Islamic State from wide areas of territory since early May.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organization that tracks the war, said the YPG fighters were now half-way between Suluk and Tel Abyad, situated across the border from the Turkish town of Akcakle.

The Kurdish advance raises the prospect of a battle at the Turkish border between the well-organized YPG militia and Islamic State.

The fighting has already forced over 13,000 people to cross the border into Turkey, with some 1,500 more waiting to cross.