Syrian Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State group in the border city of Kobani reportedly took back part of the strategic Mishtenur hill on Wednesday, blocking the militants’ supply route from their Syrian stronghold of Raqqa. Around 16 ISIS members were killed and the militants who remained on the hill are now trapped, according to Middle East Monitor.
Earlier reports said the Kurdish fighters had “liberated” the entire hill, but sources close to fighters on the ground told International Business Times that only part of Mishtenur was under Kurdish control. However, Syrian Kurdish forces from the People’s Protection Units, YPG, and Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces now have a “strong” presence on all roads leading to and from the hill, which is a significant blow to ISIS militants.
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Retaking even part the hill is a win for the Kurds, who’ve been fighting ISIS militants for over a month, but the battle for Kobani is far from over. Mishtenur’s significance is two-pronged: The Kurds now have the elevation needed to attack surrounding ISIS positions in the city, and they now control the roads below the hill, which ISIS forces had used to bring in reinforcements and take out their wounded and dead.
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"ISIS is defeated mostly," Nassan told Middle East Monitor. "ISIS is still in Kobane, but with Mashta al-Nur, ISIS will be in a very small part of Kobane. Defeating ISIS will be more easy.”
Militants have been using the roads to bring in fighters, ammunition and supplies from Raqqa. Last month, Iraqi Kurdish forces used the same supply route-targeting strategy to retake the Iraqi town of Zumar and several nearby villages, significantly weakening the ISIS lifeline from Syria to Mosul.
Among the fighters entering Kobani from Raqqa are underage recruits. After an accelerated 45-day training period, some of ISIS’ teenage recruits are sent to fight and more than 30 “kids” have already been killed on the Kobani frontlines, a spokesman for the anti-militant activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently recently told IBTimes. The group reported last week that a 15-year-old had been killed in fighting around the city.
The YPG and Women’s Protection Units, YPJ, have been battling ISIS militants for over a month and have not surrendered the city despite being severely outnumbered and outgunned. Last week, a unit of 150 peshmerga soldiers and some Free Syrian Army forces entered Kobani to fight with the YPG in a morale-boosting show of solidarity.
“YPG and YPJ forces are resisting, despite ISIS bringing in fresh blood from Raqqa,” Kurdish affairs analyst Mutlu Civiroglu told IBTimes. “They [ISIS] did not foresee this fight going on for so long, while Kurdish forces prepared themselves well for a prolonged battle.”