BEIRUT (Reuters) - A Syrian Kurdish militia said it had recovered full control of the border town of Tel Abyad on Wednesday after Islamic State fighters raided its outskirts the day before in preparation for a larger assault.
Backed by U.S.-led air strikes, the Kurdish YPG militia and smaller Syrian rebel groups captured Tel Abyad from Islamic State on June 15, severing an important supply route for the militants between the Turkish border and its de facto capital of Raqqa city to the south.
YPG spokesman Redur Xelil said Islamic State fighters were repelled overnight after they briefly wrested control of an area on Tel Abyad’s eastern periphery.
“The situation in Tel Abyad is over and under control,” he told Reuters. Three Islamic State fighters had been killed in the fighting, and a fourth had blown himself up with an explosive belt.
Islamic State went back on the offensive in Syria last week, raiding Kurdish-controlled Kobani - also known as Ayn al-Arab - while simultaneously launching an attack on government-held areas of the northeastern city of Hasaka.
The Islamic State raid on Kobani killed more than 220 civilians - one of its worst mass killings to date. The YPG said it reestablished full control over Kobani on Saturday, killing more than 60 Islamic State militants who had raided the town.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the YPG had reestablished control over the Tel Abyad district raided on Tuesday. But with such a low death toll among Islamic State fighters, it questioned where the remaining militants had gone.
The YPG’s success against Islamic State is one of the few bright spots for the U.S. strategy aimed at rolling back the jihadist group in Iraq and Syria.
The YPG is to date the only significant partner for a U.S.-led air campaign in Syria. Washington has shunned the idea of cooperating with Damascus.
The Syrian military has also been partly able to regain areas of the northeastern city of Hasaka lost to Islamic State in its attack last week.
The city is divided into zones run separately by the YPG and the Syrian government, and is one of President Bashar al-Assad’s last footholds in the northeastern corner of Syria at the border with Iraq and Turkey.
The Observatory reported renewed fighting between Islamic State and the army and militia fighting alongside it in southwestern Hasaka on Wednesday. Syrian army air strikes were also reported on Islamic State positions.
A Syrian military source said: “Islamic State has practically retreated from most of the areas it entered, but there remain some pockets, and the battles are ongoing.”
Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky