Kurds warn of genocide in key city under siege

SHAFAQNA – Kurdish leaders appealed for help to halt a potential genocide yesterday after Islamic State fighters swept through a string of strategically important villages in northern Syria to lay siege to a city inhabited by tens of thousands of Kurds. Isis fighters were surrounding Kobani on the Syrian-Turkish border last night after seizing 21 nearby villages, sending thousands of refugees fleeing towards the border with Turkey. Redur Xelil, spokesman for the Syrian Kurdish militia, the YPG, said that militants were using the high ground they had seized to send tank, rocket and artillery fire raining down on the city, endangering its nearly 50,000 mostly Kurdish inhabitants. “The international community has to take action,” he said. “If not there will be a new genocide in Kobani.”

His plea comes only weeks after President Obama ordered airstrikes to prevent an Isis assault on the Kurdish autonomous region of Iraq. Kurds in Iraq, unlike those in Syria, are key western allies and their region is home to important western economic interests. The YPG in Syria is proscribed by many western countries as a terrorist organisation, despite its close relationship with Iraqi Kurdistan. Last month its fighters were lauded for their help in evacuating thousands of Yazidis from Mount Sinjar, in northern Iraq, where they were besieged by Isis.

Mr Obama ordered airstrikes to prevent what he said was a threatened genocide, giving cover for Yazidis to escape across the Syrian border, from where they were escorted by YPG fighters to Iraqi Kurdistan. Western countries, including Britain, the US and Germany, have supplied weapons to Iraq’s Kurds to combat Isis, creating resentment among Syrian opposition groups that have received no western military aid. Kurdish commanders inside Kobani appealed to Kurdish armed groups, including Turkey’s PKK, to intervene. The PKK helped to repel an Isis assault on Kobani earlier this year, but the latest attack was said to be far larger. The PKK called on the youth of the country’s Kurdish southeast to go to Kobani and fight to save the city.

The fate of up to 7,000 Kurds who fled their villages was unclear last night. At least 1,000 fled to the Turkish border but were denied entry after border guards claimed they had been shot at.

Most villagers are believed to have fled before Isis reached them.

Ocalan Iso, deputy head of Kurdish forces in Kobani, said that they had lost touch with most villagers and accused Isis of committing massacres and kidnapping women.

Save the Children warned that a generation of Syrian children could be denied an education as a result of displacement caused by the conflict. Nearly three million Syrian children are not at school. Half of the 1.5 million children who are refugees outside Syria cannot attend school. Most displaced inside Syria have no school to go to.


Source : http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/middleeast/article4211038.ece

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