US-led coalition air strikes on Syria have killed more than 500 people, mainly Islamic militants, since they began last month, activists said as fighting flared in the northern Syrian border town of Kobani.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, said 553 people have been killed since the air strikes began on September 23, including 32 civilians. The civilians included six children and five women.
The group said it has documented the deaths of 464 fighters with the Islamic State (IS) group, adding that the real number could be much higher.
Another 57 fighters with the al Qaida-linked Nusra Front were killed in air strikes on the northern province of Aleppo and Idlib, the Observatory said.
Many of the IS fighters have been killed in or near Kobani, the target of a massive jihadi offensive since mid-September. IS fighters have captured dozens of surrounding Kurdish villages and forced more than 200,000 people to flee for safety in neighbouring Turkey.
Earlier this week, The US Central Command said its forces have conducted more than 135 air strikes against Islamic State militants in and around Kobani, killing hundreds of fighters.
“Combined with continued resistance to Isil (IS) on the ground, indications are that these strikes have slowed Isil advances into the city, killed hundreds of their fighters and destroyed or damaged scores of pieces of Isil combat equipment and fighting positions,” Central Command said in a statement.
An Associated Press journalist on the Turkish side of the border said heavy machine gun fire could be heard from Kobani, which is also known as Ayn Arab, today.
“The fighting has been ongoing since last night on the eastern and southern fronts. It is some of the longest clashes in Kobani,” said Kurdish activist Farhad Shami. “The fighting usually only takes place at night.”
Shami said the IS group launched an attack from three fronts late yesterday but failed to advance. Still he said that Kurdish fighters withdrew from the Tel Shair hill that overlooks parts of Kobani.
The Observatory said IS fighters captured the hill, closing in on the town from the west. It said IS fighters are also trying to advance from the eastern side of the town, saying there were casualties on both sides.
The hill was captured by the Kurds from Islamic state fighters earlier this month.
Idris Nassan, deputy minister for foreign affairs in a Kurdish civil administration controlling Kobani, said that although IS fighters moved onto Tel Shair hill, the heavy fighting there was ongoing.
“Kobani has been witnessing fierce clashes since last night. It was one of the bad nights,” Mr Nassan said.
The Observatory meanwhile reported four coalition air strikes on oil wells in the Jafra field in the eastern Syrian province of Deir el-Zour late yesterday. The Local Co-ordination Committees, an activist group, also reported the air strikes in areas held by the IS group.
The US-led coalition has aggressively targeted IS-held oil facilities in Syria, which provide a key source of income for the militants. But such strikes also endanger civilians, which could undermine long-term efforts to destroy the militant group.
The attacks on the oil industry, including refineries, have also led to a sharp rise in the price of oil products in rebel-held areas of Syria.