Photo of Kobane under attack. YPG/Facebook
LONDON – A United Nations’ resolution adopted this week to ease the plight of Syrian civilians does not address the dilemma of 400,000 mainly Kurdish people in Kobane canton who are facing an escalating jihadist offensive, according to foreign observers in the region.
Kobane, one of three Kurdish cantons of Rojava that declared autonomy last year, has been under attack by fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria since even before the insurgents seized a swathe of territory in neighbouring Iraq last month.
Over the same period, Kurdish authorities in Kobane have been calling in vain for aid and international diplomatic and political intervention to stop the ISIS attacks.
Kobane’s Kurdish defenders are now facing an enemy that has been reinforced with advanced weaponry captured when Mosul, Iraq’s second city, fell to the insurgents.
In the U.N. resolution adopted on Tuesday, the Security Council sought to break the deadlock in aid deliveries to the Syrian people by authorising a 180-day period in which relief will be delivered across conflict lines and additional border crossings.
However, the four crossings specified in the U.N. text do not include the border post between Kobane and nearby Turkey, which represents the Kurdish canton’s lifeline to the outside world.
That means that none of the humanitarian assistance, including medical and surgical supplies, that is destined for the rest of Syria will reach the region directly, according to the foreign observers.
Describing the Kurds as “outgunned and out-numbered”, one source said ISIS was making incremental gains in Kobane, which includes the town of that name and many rural villages.
There are fears of a mass flight, or even a massacre, if the Islamists make a breakthrough to the capital of the canton. ISIS has largely spared its Sunni co-religionists in its sweep through Iraq but there are fears the Islamists would show no such mercy to the Kurds.
Kobane is currently governed by an autonomous administration dominated by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and defended by its People’s Protection Units (YPG).
The foreign observers said they understood some civilians left for Turkey last week in a brief lifting of Turkish border restrictions. Many others are deterred from smuggling themselves across the frontier by their belief that it is mined. Some Turkish Kurds had also made their way to Kobane to support their fellow Kurds, but they were arriving without weapons beyond the occasional rifle.
At the moment, the only aid allowed across the Turkish border is that specifically authorized by the local governor, the sources said.
At the U.N. this week, U.S. representative said the Security Council must be ready to act decisively if the belligerents in Syria failed to abide by the resolution. However, the Russian representative said the text did not trigger the use of force if the terms of the resolution were broken.
The foreign observers said that, in the event of further ISIS gains in Kobane, the only hope for civilians was that Turkey would agree to open the border to them. The only alternative, according to one source, would be an international military response. But that did not appear likely to be forthcoming.