Renewed assault on Kobani; 21 dead in Turkey as Kurds rise

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Renewed assault on Kobani; 21 dead in Turkey as Kurds rise
Assad is dropping barrel bombs on Syrian civilians. US drops anti-ISIS leaflets. http://t.co/dNoRtD8kzo http://t.co/evtxcrZxJC
Syrian boys sift through the rubble of a house in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on March 25, 2015. Islamic State (IS) fighters were driven out of Kobane on January 26 by Kurdish and allied forces. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Destroyed building are seen around a sign that reads, ''Kobane'' in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on March 24, 2015. Islamic State (IS) fighters were driven out of Kobane on January 26, by Kurdish and allied forces. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian schoolchildren play at recess time outside their school in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on March 25, 2015. Islamic State (IS) fighters were driven out of Kobane on January 26 by Kurdish and allied forces. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Children play in the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on March 27, 2015. Islamic State (IS) fighters were driven out of Kobane on January 26 by Kurdish and allied forces. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Toys and flowers are laid on gravestones in a cemetery for Kurdish fighters in the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on March 27, 2015. Islamic State (IS) fighters were driven out of Kobane on January 26 by Kurdish and allied forces. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Hezbollah fighters stand next to the coffin of Shiite militant Ali al-hadi Wahbi, killed in fighting with the Islamic State group (IS) in Syria, during his funeral ceremony on March 27, 2015 in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Police used tear gas and water cannon on October 8, 2014 in Ankara to disperse demonstrators protesting against the attacks launched by Islamic State insurgents targeting the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, and the lack of action by their government. Turkey's military on October 8 imposed a curfew in parts of the southeast after at least 19 people were killed in pro-Kurdish protests over the government's failure to act against jihadists attacking the Syrian border city of Kobane. AFP PHOTO/ADEM ALTAN (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Turkish police intervene protesters taking streets across Turkey to hold unauthorized demonstrations against the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants toward central Kobani, on October 8, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Protestors make barricades against Turkish police during unauthorized demonstrations against the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants toward central Kobani, on October 8, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Protestors make barricades against Turkish police during unauthorized demonstrations against the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants toward central Kobani, on October 8, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Protestors make barricades against Turkish police during unauthorized demonstrations against the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants toward central Kobani, on October 8, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (C) stands alongside outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey (R) during an Armed Forces Farewell Tribute in honor of Panetta at Joint Base Myer-Henderson in Arlington, Virginia, February 8, 2013. Panetta will retire once his likely successor, former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, is confirmed by the US Senate. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 16: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testifies during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. policy towards Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 16: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testifies during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. policy towards Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 10: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a prime time address from the Cross Hall of the White House on September 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. Vowing to target the Islamic State with air strikes 'wherever they exist', Obama pledged to lead a broad coalition to fight IS and work with 'partner forces' on the ground in Syria and Iraq. (Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)
Druze men stand in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights as they look at smoke rising in the distance caused by fighting between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels over the control of the Quneitra border crossing, on August 27, 2014. Syrian rebels, including Al-Qaeda's affiliate Al-Nusra Front, seized control of the Syrian crossing with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights today, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of United Nations Disengagement Observer Force Zone (UNDOF) use binoculars to watch smoke rising in the distance caused by fighting between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels over the control of the Quneitra border crossing, on August 27, 2014. Syrian rebels, including Al-Qaeda's affiliate Al-Nusra Front, seized control of the Syrian crossing with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights today, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A rebel fightercarries homemade mortar rounds on September 3, 2013 in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa. UN leader Ban Ki-moon said on September 3, 2013 that a military strike on Syria over the use of chemical weapons could worsen the country's conflict. AFP PHOTO / MEZAR MATAR (Photo credit should read MEZAR MATAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters in Melbourne try to raise awareness of persecution of Christians at the hands of Islamic State fighters
Protesters in Melbourne try to raise awareness of persecution of Christians at the hands of Islamic State fighters Sept-6-2014
Demonstrators hold placards as they protest against the actions of Islamic State in Iraq outside Downing Street in central London on September 7, 2014. The unity rally took place to address the genocide of the minority peoples of Iraq by the Islamic State group. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi volunteer soldiers march after graduating from a training camp in the central Iraqi city of Kufa on September 1, 2014. Iraqi forces broke through to the jihadist-besieged Shiite town of Amerli the previous day which was the biggest offensive success for the Iraqi government since militants led by the Sunni Islamic State (IS) jihadist group overran large areas of five provinces in June, sweeping security forces aside. AFP PHOTO / HAIDAR HAMDANI (Photo credit should read HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi volunteer soldiers march after graduating from a training camp in the central Iraqi city of Kufa on September 1, 2014. Iraqi forces broke through to the jihadist-besieged Shiite town of Amerli the previous day which was the biggest offensive success for the Iraqi government since militants led by the Sunni Islamic State (IS) jihadist group overran large areas of five provinces in June, sweeping security forces aside. AFP PHOTO / HAIDAR HAMDANI (Photo credit should read HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish riot police use teargas to disperse protesters on October 8, 2014 in Ankara during a demonstration against attacks launched by Islamic State (IS) group, targeting the Syrian city Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, and lack of government action. While air strikes by a US-led coalition fighting IS have helped push back the jihadists, pressure is mounting for more international action to save the town. Some 200,000 mainly Kurdish refugees have fled the IS advance into the area, and Ankara in particular has come under pressure to act, although its response has been complicated by concerns over emboldening Kurdish separatists, who have waged a deadly insurgency in Turkey over the past decades. AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 08: A photograph taken from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey, shows that local residents watch smoke rising from the Syrian border town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) following the US-led coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on October 8, 2014. (Photo by Emin Menguarslan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Protesters demonstrate on October 8, 2014 in Ankara against attacks launched by Islamic State (IS) group, targeting the Syrian city Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, and lack of government action. While air strikes by a US-led coalition fighting IS have helped push back the jihadists, pressure is mounting for more international action to save the town. Some 200,000 mainly Kurdish refugees have fled the IS advance into the area, and Ankara in particular has come under pressure to act, although its response has been complicated by concerns over emboldening Kurdish separatists, who have waged a deadly insurgency in Turkey over the past decades. AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke rises from the impact of an airstrike next to the hill where Islamic State (IS) militants had placed their flag in the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, seen from the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern village of Mursitpinar, Sanliurfa province, on October 8, 2014. The Pentagon warned on October 8, 2014 US air power on its own could not prevent Islamic State jihadists from capturing the Syrian border town of Kobane, even as US warplanes kept up bombing raids in the area. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Kurds living in Greece protest in central Athens during a pro-Kurd demonstration against attacks launched by Islamic State insurgents targeting the Syrian city of Kobane and lack of action by the Turkish government on October 8, 2014. Intensified air strikes helped Kurdish militia push back Islamic State jihadists fighting for Kobane as pressure mounted for more international action to save the key Syrian border town. AFP PHOTO/ LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: A photograph taken from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, southeastern province of Turkey, shows that smoke rises during the clashes between Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and Kurdish armed troops in Kobane (Ayn al-arab) city of Syria, on October 8, 2014. (Photo by Emin Menguarslan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
IDLIB, SYRIA - MARCH 17: Members of a Syrian opposition group called Jaysh al-Islam get military training in Idlib, Syria on March 17, 2015. At least 400 people get military training at Jaysh al-Islam's Idlib camp within the combat with DAESH (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant). (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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By DAREN BUTLER & JONNY HOGG

Reuters) - Islamic State fighters launched a renewed assault on the Syrian city of Kobani on Wednesday night, and at least 21 people were killed in riots in neighboring Turkey where Kurds rose up against the government for doing nothing to protect their kin.

Heavily outgunned defenders said Islamic State militants had pushed into two districts of the mainly Kurdish border city late on Wednesday, despite U.S.-led air strikes that the Pentagon acknowledged would probably not be enough to safeguard the town.

In Turkey, street battles raged between Kurdish protesters and police across the mainly Kurdish southeast, in Istanbul and in Ankara, as fallout from war in Syria and Iraq threatened to unravel the NATO member's own delicate Kurdish peace process. The street violence was the worst Turkey has seen in years.

Washington said its war planes, along with those of coalition ally the United Arab Emirates, had struck nine targets in Syria, including six near Kobani that hit Islamic State artillery and armored vehicles. It also struck Islamic State positions in Iraq five times.

Nevertheless, Kobani remained under intense bombardment from Islamic State emplacements, within sight of Turkish tanks at the nearby frontier that have so far done nothing to help.

"Tonight, (Islamic State) has entered two districts with heavy weapons including tanks. Civilians may have died because there are very intense clashes," Asya Abdullah, co-chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the main Kurdish group defending the area, told Reuters from inside the town.

U.S. officials were quoted voicing impatience with the Turks for refusing to join the coalition against Islamic State fighters who have seized wide areas of Syria and Iraq.

Turkey says it could join only if Washington agrees to use force against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Sunni Muslim jihadists fighting him in a three-year-old civil war.

Turkey's own Kurds, who make up the majority in the southeast of the country, say President Tayyip Erdogan is stalling while their brethren are killed in Kobani.

Police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators who burned cars and tires. Authorities imposed curfews in at least five provinces, the first time such measures have been used widely since the early 1990s.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters in Ankara that 19 people were killed and 145 wounded in riots across Turkey, vowing that Turkey's own peace process with Kurdish separatists would not be wrecked by "vandalism". Dogan news agency later said the death toll had climbed to 21. At least 10 people died in clashes in Diyarbakir, the largest Kurdish city in Turkey's southeast. An all-day curfew there from Tuesday night was extended for another day on Wednesday. Pockets of protesters defying the curfew clashed with security forces there on Wednesday.

Others died in clashes between protesters and police in the eastern provinces of Mus, Siirt and Batman. Thirty people were wounded in Istanbul, including eight police officers.

Disturbances spread to other countries with Kurdish and Turkish populations. Police in Germany said 14 people were hurt in clashes there between Kurds and radical Islamists.

The unrest in Turkey, which has NATO's second largest armed forces, exposes the difficulty Washington has faced in building a coalition to fight Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, two countries with complex, multi-sided civil wars in which every country in the region has a stake.

BLACK FLAG

Islamic State fighters besieging Kobani hoisted their black flag on the eastern edge of the town on Monday. Since then, U.S.-led air strikes have been redoubled. The town's defenders said earlier on Wednesday the insurgents had been pushed back, but the fighters appeared to be advancing later in the day.

Intense gunfire and loud explosions could be heard on Wednesday morning from across the Turkish frontier. Huge plumes of gray smoke and dust rose above the town, where the United Nations says only a few hundred inhabitants remain.

U.S. officials, acknowledging it will be hard to shield Kobani from the air, have played down its strategic importance.

"Air strikes alone are not going to do this. They're not going to fix this. They're not going to save the town of Kobani. We know that," Rear Admiral John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, told a news briefing.

Secretary of State John Kerry said: "As horrific as it is to watch in real time what is happening in Kobani ..., you have to step back and understand the strategic objective."

Islamic State has been advancing on the town from three sides and pounding it with artillery despite dogged resistance from heavily outgunned Kurdish forces.

Kurdish media said Kurdish fighters thwarted a car bomb on positions in Kobani, saying the vehicle blew up before reaching its target. An Islamic State source on Twitter said the attack destroyed a police station. Neither account could be verified but a huge explosion could be seen from across the border.

In Turkey, parliament voted last week to authorize cross-border intervention, but Erdogan and his government have so far held back, saying they will join military action only as part of an alliance that also confronts Assad.

Erdogan wants the alliance to enforce a "no-fly zone" to prevent Assad's air force flying over Syrian territory near the Turkish border and create a safe area for an estimated 1.2 million Syrian refugees in Turkey to return.

France said it supported the idea of a safe area, and Britain said it was studying it. But it is clear the proposal has not taken hold in Washington, which has been bombing Islamic State targets in Syria without Assad raising objections, and does not want to be dragged into a conflict against Damascus.

"At the moment, the American air force is flying all over Syria with the permission of the Assad government," said Tim Ripley, a defense expert for Jane's Defence Weekly.

"To try and impose a no-fly zone would potentially involve a major air war against one of the biggest air forces in the Middle East ... which would only be a distraction from the fight against (Islamic State)," he said.

Kerry, repeating lukewarm views of other U.S. officials, said: "The buffer zone is an idea that has been out there. It is worth examining, it's worth looking at very, very closely." Pentagon spokesman Kirby said: "It is now not on the table as a military option that we are considering."

U.S. IMPATIENCE

The conflict has already opened up a fissure in relations between the United States and Turkey, its most powerful ally in the area. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was forced to apologize last week after Erdogan took umbrage at comments Biden made at Harvard University, in which he blamed Turkey's open borders for allowing Islamic State to bring in recruits.

An unnamed senior U.S. official told the New York Times on Tuesday there was "growing angst about Turkey dragging its feet to act to prevent a massacre less than a mile from its border".

"This isn't how a NATO ally acts while hell is unfolding a stone's throw from their border," the official said.

Kerry said Turkey was still deciding what role it would play. Retired U.S. General John Allen, charged with building a coalition against Islamic State after it seized about a third of neighboring Iraq, is due in Turkey this week.

But, while taking in Kobani's refugees and treating its wounded, Turkey has deep reservations about deploying its own army in Syria. Beyond becoming a target for Islamic State, it fears being sucked into Syria's three-year-old civil war.

It also distrusts Syria's Kurds, allies of Turkey's own Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which waged a decades-long insurgency for Kurdish autonomy in which around 40,000 people were killed.

The PKK's jailed leader, Abdullah Ocalan, has said any massacre of Kurds in Kobani would doom a fragile peace process with the Turkish authorities, one of the most important initiatives of Erdogan's decade in power.

The street protests across Turkey were already making the prospect of reconciliation with nationalists seem more remote, as protesters set fire to Turkish flags and attacked statues of the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Selahattin Demirtas, co-chair of the HDP, Turkey's leading Kurdish party, condemned such acts as "provocations carried out to prevent help coming to the east (Kobani) from the west".

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