Turkey mulls action as IS jihadists near Syria border town

Islamic State fighters are pushing towards a key Kurdish town on Syria’s border with Turkey, whose parliament is set on Thursday to consider authorising military intervention against the jihadists on its doorstep.

Kurdish fighters backed by US-led air strikes were locked in fierce fighting Wednesday to prevent the besieged border town of Ain al-Arab from falling to the Islamic State group fighters.

“There are real fears that the IS may be able to advance into the town… very soon,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights warned, with the jihadists within three kilometres (two miles) of the strategic town.

The fighting came as 41 children and seven adults were reported dead in twin bombings at a school in the government-controlled central city of Homs, which has been devastated by the three-year civil war.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

NATO member Turkey, after months of caution, has decided to harden its policy, with parliament due to debate Thursday a government request to authorise military action against IS in both Iraq and Syria.

Ankara has not yet indicated what form its assistance could take although Erdogan has repeatedly called for a buffer zone on the Turkish border inside Syria — backed by a no-fly zone — to ensure security.

According to the Hurriyet daily, quoting sources in Turkey’s central command, the request seeks permission from parliament for the presence and transit of foreign soldiers in Turkish territory and deployment of Turkish military forces to Iraq or Syria.

Ankara has previously justified its low-key role in the fight against IS by saying its hands were tied by concerns over the fate of dozens of Turkish hostages abducted by IS in Iraq.

But those hostages were freed September 20, prompting what Erdogan has acknowledged as a major change in Turkish policy.Anti-jihadist air strikes and the heavy clashes in and around Ain al-Arab killed at least 18 people Wednesday — nine militants and nine Kurdish fighters, the Syrian rights observatory said.