(Adds Kurds, details, context)
By Mariam Karouny and Ayla Jean Yackley
BEIRUT/ISTANBUL, Sept 28 Air strikes believed to
have been carried out by U.S.-led forces hit three makeshift oil
refineries in Syria's Raqqa province early on Sunday as part of
an assault to weaken Islamic State (IS) militants, a monitoring
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said
the attacks occurred shortly after midnight, adding that they
also hit a plastic factory.
Islamic State fighters have control over oil produced in
eastern Syria and have set up small, makeshift refineries to
distil the crude into fuel, one of their main sources of income.
"These so-called refineries are not a real target and they
do not weaken Islamic State as they do not have any financial
value for them," Rami Abdelrahman of the Observatory told
"They are composed of trucks with equipment to separate
diesel and petrol used by civilians."
The United States has been carrying out strikes in Iraq
since Aug. 8 and in Syria, with the help of Arab allies, since
Tuesday, in a campaign it says is aimed at "degrading and
destroying" the Islamist militants who have captured swathes of
Abdelrahman said that destroying the makeshift refineries
has led to a sharp increase in the price of diesel, adding that
for residents in Syria's northern Aleppo province, for example,
the price has more than doubled.
"The price went up from 9,000 Syrian pounds to 21,000 in
Aleppo. Hitting these refineries has affected ordinary people,
now they have to pay higher prices."
A medium-sized makeshift refinery, stationed on trucks, can
refine up to 200 barrels of crude a day into fuel and other
products. The refineries, which Syrian opposition sources say
cost up to $230,000 to set up, are assembled in Turkey and
transported into Syria.
But the impact of the strikes on the militant group's
capabilities was not immediately clear. IS has gained support
among Islamists following the attacks, including from rival
Scores of fighters have left al Qaeda's Nusra Front and
other Islamist groups in Syria to join IS since the strikes
The Nusra Front is coming under increasing pressure from its
own members to reconcile with IS to fight what they describe as
a "crusader" campaign against Islam.
On Saturday, the group gave its first reaction to the
strikes, vowing to retaliate against Western and Arab countries
that took part in the coalition.
"It's not a war against Nusra Front, it's a war against
Islam," Nusra spokesman Abu Firas al-Suri said in an audio
message published on the group's social media network.
"These countries have done a despicable act that will put
them on the list of those targeted by jihadist forces all over
the world," the spokesman said.
KURDS READY TO COOPERATE
The air strikes have failed so far to stop the advance of IS
fighters on Syria's Kurdish town of Kobani near the border with
Turkey which the group has sieged from three sides, triggering
an exodus of more than 150,000 refugees and sending mortar
shells inside Turkish territory.
On Saturday, the U.S.-led coalition bombed Islamic State
positions around the town, a move that was welcomed by Asya
Abdullah, a senior official in Syria's dominant Kurdish
political party the Democratic Union Party (PYD). She also said
that Kurds were ready to work with the alliance to fight IS and
urged Turkey to provide them with weapons.
"We are ready to establish a dialogue with anyone fighting
IS, including opposition forces in Syria, such as the Free
Syrian Army," she told Reuters via phone, speaking from Kobani,
whose strategic location linking north and northwestern Syria
has blocked Sunni insurgents from consolidating their gains in
"Turkey should arm the PYD ... These IS gangs will one day
cause great harm to Turkey. Kobani is right at the border, if
these gangs enter Kobani nothing will stop them from going to
Turkey next," she said.
Her call is unlikely to be met with a positive response
given Ankara's discontent over Kurds' growing clout in Syria,
having fought for three decades on its own soil against the
outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
PYD, which has close links to the PKK, has emerged as the
most powerful Kurdish political group in Syria since civil war
broke out there more than three years ago, and in January
declared self-rule in northeast Syria, bordering Turkey and
About 300-400 Syrian Kurds crossed back into Syria on
Sunday from Turkey to help fight against IS, a soldier on the
border told Reuters, adding that Turkish authorities were not
allowing any Turkish Kurds to go to Kobani.
Several hundred Kurds were waiting at Mursitpinar, on the
Turkish side of the border, in the hope of being allowed to
fight alongside their people in Syria, a Reuters witness said.
"IS is evil, of course we want to go and fight," Mustafa
Durdu, a Turkish Kurd who has not been permitted to leave Turkey
by Turkish authorities. "Our brothers are there," he said,
pointing to Kobani.
(Addtional reporting by Jonny Hogg in Mursitpinar in Turkey and
Humera Pamuk; Writing by Mariam Karouny; Editing by Dale Hudson
and Susan Fenton)