The first Peshmerga officers in Kobane.
ERBIL/SYRIAN-TURKISH BORDER - The first Peshmerga forces have entered the besieged city of Kobane, according to local witnesses and Kurdish officers.
An advance team of 10-15 officers entered Kobane through the Turkish border on Wednesday afternoon to plan a collective strategy with the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian-Kurdish force that has been defending the city against an Islamic State (ISIS) takeover.
The Peshmerga team is also exploring an entry strategy for the approximately 150 Iraqi Kurdish soldiers that will provide artillery support to the YPG in Kobane. Those men await orders to deploy at a temporary camp at Pirsus, seven miles from Turkey’s border with Syria, where they are being guarded by the Turkish military.
Kurdish commanders said ISIS had intensified attacks over the last 48 hours in expectation of the Peshmerga’s arrival. US-led coalition jets hit several targets Wednesday night and Thursday morning to facilitate a safe crossing.
The Peshmerga will be the first foreign soldiers to be dispatched to the Syrian Kurdish border town, which has been under siege by ISIS for more than 40 days. Local Kurdish fighters have held out with backing from US-led airstrikes.
Before the advance unit crossed into Kobane, Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani released a statement that pledged to support more troops to Kobane if needed.
"Whenever the situation on the ground necessitates and more forces are requested from us and there is passage for them, we will send more forces to protect Kobane and defeat terrorists in Western (Syrian) Kurdistan," he said.
The first crossing into Kobane came after the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which is fighting to oust the Damascus regime, said 200 its fighters had entered the embattled town at the request of the YPG.
Syria accused Turkey on Thursday of a "flagrant violation" of its sovereignty for letting the FSA rebel fighters cross the border.
"Once again, Turkey has shown its conspiratorial role... by allowing foreign forces and terrorist groups to enter Syria," said a foreign ministry statement reported by state television. "This constitutes a flagrant violation of Syrian sovereignty."
Approximately 150 Peshmerga arrived in Turkey early Wednesday morning in two groups, one flying to Sanliurfa airport in the country’s south-east, the other crossing by land with a trucks filled with heavy weapons.
Soldiers were bused in to a camp near to the border, where the two contingents gathered and stayed overnight.
The trip was not been without complications. A Peshmerga medic told Rudaw on Wednesday evening that the Turkish authorities refused to let Peshmerga cross with their guns or uniforms, and complained about the miserable conditions of the camp provided by Turkey.
“There are no facilities in the place we are staying,” Issettin Temo, part of the small medical team accompanying the soldiers, said in a telephone call from Turkey. “We do not have a bar of soap nor a washbasin to wash our hands. We feel like prisoners. We have no connection with the outside world. However we can do nothing but wait for our guns to reach us. Our journey is being delayed because of this.”
He believed that the Turkish escort resented the local support the Peshmerga enjoyed. The troops arrived to great fanfare in Turkey. Thousands of people rushed from surrounding areas to greet the land convoy and the soldiers in Sanliurfa.
“People came out onto the streets to greet the Peshmerga,” the medic said. “They are mistreating and insulting us because of this.”
Turkey’s intelligence agency MIT was ordered to coordinate the crossing of the Peshmerga into Syria, according to the Hurriyet daily.
The newspaper reported the Turkish army saying it was unwilling to undertake the task, and would only be involved during the Kurdish soldiers’ crossing of the military zone at the border.
The reason why Peshmerga did not immediately cross into Kobane has not been confirmed by officials.