fires tear gas at fleeing Kurdish refugees

SHAFAQNA – Turkish security forces opened fire on Kurdish refugees with tear gas and water cannon on the border with Syria yesterday as officials warned the numbers fleeing an Islamic State (Isis) advance had passed 100,000 in two days.
The UN refugee agency expressed alarm at the scale of the influx, saying it was one of the largest movements of people across the Syrian border since the conflict began three years ago.
The refugees have been pouring into Turkey since Friday when the government bowed to international pressure to let them in. They have been fleeing an advance by Isis fighters through villages surrounding the border city of Kobani, now surrounded on three sides by the jihadists.
Heavy fighting broke out around Kobani as Isis fighters clashed with Kurdish forces, including members of Turkey’s PKK, who crossed the border into Syria to come to their aid.
A Syrian Kurdish commander told The Times that Isis was using tanks and artillery to target villagers. As the fighting raged, Turkish authorities closed the border crossing closest to Kobani, saying that they wanted to prevent Kurdish fighters crossing into Syria.
Clashes erupted after Kurds on the Turkish side of the border approached the crossing to bring food and water to refugees stranded on the other side. Turkish police said that they had acted after being pelted with stones.
The unrest at the border underlines many of the complexities and sensitivities at play in this corner of Syria’s conflict, where ethnic Kurds straddle the border between Syria and Turkey.
President Obama will try to gather allies at the annual summit of world leaders at the United Nations and expand air strikes against Isis. On Wednesday he will chair a meeting of the UN Security Council, also attended by David Cameron, which is expected to pass a resolution targeting the foreign fighters who have joined Isis.
However it does not provide UN cover for the airstrikes Mr Obama has authorised but not yet carried out in Syria. While American and French airstrikes in Iraq were requested by the Iraqi government, it is unclear whether the Syrian National Coalition has the authority to invite airstrikes.
Russia has said airstrikes in Syria without the consent of the Syrian government or a resolution from the UN Security Council would be illegal. Any attempt to secure a resolution would almost certainly be vetoed by Moscow.
Samantha Power, US ambassador to the UN, said that at least 40 countries were signed up to the US-led coalition and predicted that Washington would not be alone in carrying out airstrikes in Syria. She insisted that Iraqi forces and the Syrian rebels would have to lead operations on the ground. Robert Gates, former US defence secretary, said a small number of American special forces troops would be required on the ground for the mission to be successful.
Washington yesterday accused the Assad regime of carrying out attacks using chlorine, in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. A report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons “concludes with a high degree of confidence that chlorine was used as a weapon” in attacks on three villages in northern Syria earlier this year, said John Kerry, the secretary of state, in a statement.
His comments are likely to be used by the Obama administration as a reminder that President Assad’s forces continue to assault the Syrian opposition even as it also battles against Isis. Washington will argue that it is more crucial than ever to rally an international coalition in support of moderate rebels and help them to gain ground. Mr Kerry raised the threat of Islamic militants in the region during talks with Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister.
Turkey, which has welcomed the return of 49 hostages held by Isis for three months, is a key country. The details surrounding the hostages’ release remained unclear. Ankara had previously said it would not allow US forces based at Incirlik air base in southern Turkey to be used in any assault on Isis.
Turkey has been stung by criticism of its laxity in allowing foreign jihadists to cross the border into Syria. With more than one million Syrian refugees in Turkey, it is struggling to cope.
All of those concerns were behind Ankara’s refusal to open the border to the refugees from around Kobani.
Analysts say Isis sees Kobani as the last enclave preventing its total control of a swathe of northern Syria. Its sudden siege prompted Kurdish leaders to call for help, warning of genocide.
At least 1,000 PKK fighters have already answered their calls for help and crossed over from Turkey to join the battle against Isis, while hundreds more have set off from Iraqi Kurdistan. Syria’s air force joined in the battle yesterday, unleashing airstrikes on Isis positions to the south of Kobani.
President Erdogan of Turkey said he had discussed with Nato allies the setting up of a humanitarian buffer zone along the Turkish-Syria border, where refugees could be protected and helped.

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