ISIS is losing its foothold in Iraq and Syria after American airstrikes and an offensive from Kurdish forces have pushed back the Islamist militant group.
Hundreds of Kurdish fighters from Turkey attacked the town of Ayn al-Arab, where ISIS forces had taken over. The militia, which calls itself the People’s Protection Unit (YPG), was has moved in to free the town near the Turkish border.
After two months of keeping the town cut from the rest of the world, ISIS had moved in further to take over the town.
Kurdish activists said they fear ISIS will massacre townspeople if it is not freed.
“The conversation is no longer about withdrawing from this village or taking control of that place. For the People’s Protection Unit it is about resisting the attack by ISIS and defending 50,000 Kurds from a massacre,” said Mostafa Baly, a Kurdish activist inside Ayn al-Arab.
Baly added that hundreds of Kurdish fighters are joining the battle from the Turkish border.
“The Kurdish people do not want to go to the refugee camps. We refuse to live in tents. the only option is to stand strong and defeat ISIS,” he said.
The battle for Ayn al-Arab take place as coalition forces have pounded ISIS in other areas. A U.S. airstrike near Mosul killed 40 militants this week, the deadliest attack yet in a series of American attacks against the militant group.
U.S. Central Command told USA Today that the attack destroyed “a large ISIL ground unit,” referring to the group by one of its other names. But officials added that attacks are only meant to support Kurdish and Iraqi fighters.
“We won’t decimate ISIS with air strikes that kill 40,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a military analyst with the Brookings Institution. “But if we can convince them not to go on the offensive, we’ll buy time for the rest of the strategy to unfold.”
ISIS is now facing other attacks as well. This week France conducted its first airstrikes against the militant group.