Update as of 5:10 a.m. EDT: At least 150 fighters of the rebel Free Syrian Army, or FSA, entered Syria overnight from Turkey on Wednesday to help Kurdish fighters battling militants of the Islamic State group in the town of Kobani, Agence France-Presse, or AFP, reported, citing local Turkish officials. Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said that 1,300 FSA fighters had been cleared to cross into Kobani.
Idriss Nassan, a Kurdish official from Kobani, told The Associated Press that the group entered the town through the Mursitpinar border crossing with Turkey. The report comes just hours after a contingent of Iraqi peshmerga forces arrived in the Turkish town of Sanliurfa. The peshmerga fighters are expected to cross into Syria later on Wednesday, according to media reports.
Nearly 80 Iraqi peshmerga fighters arrived at the Turkish-Syrian border town of Sanliurfa in southeastern Turkey early on Wednesday, on their way to the besieged Syrian town of Kobani, according to media reports. Another convoy of at least 70 fighters is currently awaiting permits from Turkish authorities at the Iraq-Turkey border, Al Jazeera reported Wednesday.
The deployment of peshmerga fighters to Kobani comes just a week after Turkey agreed to let the forces from Iraq cross its territory to reach Kobani. Turkey views the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party fighters, who are battling ISIS in the town, as terrorists affiliated to the banned Kurdish group PKK. On Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had reportedly rejected claims that his country is not doing enough to prevent the onslaught of ISIS in Syria.
“The only way to help Kobani since other countries don't want to use ground troops, is sending some peace oriented or moderate troops to Kobani,” Davutoglu told BBC on Tuesday. “What are they? Peshmerga ... and Free Syrian Army.”
The Kurdish Regional Government had authorized the deployment of its fighters to Syria last week. A spokesperson for the KRG had earlier stated that the peshmerga forces were only meant to be “support forces” and that they would not be involved in direct combat with militants of the Islamic State group.
However, “they will remain there until they are no longer needed,” Mustafa Sayid Qadir, the minister of peshmerga affairs, told Al Jazeera.
The United States, on Tuesday, welcomed the decision to send peshmerga forces to Kobani. State department spokesperson Jen Psaki said, at a press briefing, that the U.S. will “certainly encourage…the facilitation of peshmerga forces across the border.”
More than 800 people have been killed in the last 40 days of fighting in the Kurdish-populated town of Kobani since Sept. 16, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Airstrikes carried out by the U.S.-led coalition have helped push ISIS back from many parts of the town, according to media reports. However, the militants are still in control of nearly 40 percent of Kobani, BBC reported Wednesday, citing a local Kurdish commander.