Airstrikes mark shift in coalition focus, to ISIS 'capital'

Willie Grace | 12/1/2014, 12:24 p.m. | Updated on 12/1/2014, 12:24 p.m.
Separately, another opposition activist group based in Raqqa, which is under ISIS control, reported that about 30 airstrikes by "the ...
Five ISIS suicide bombers blew themselves up using cars and explosive belts near the besieged Kurdish city, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

(CNN) -- The U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria has stepped up its attacks on the militant Islamist group's de facto capital, with 30 airstrikes targeting Raqqa overnight, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday.

Separately, another opposition activist group based in Raqqa, which is under ISIS control, reported that about 30 airstrikes by "the crusader alliance" targeted areas northwest of the city.

Previously, coalition strikes have primarily targeted Kobani, near the Turkey border. The attacks in Raqqa mark an increase in coalition activity there.

Last week, almost 100 people were killed in Syrian government airstrikes in Raqqa, the observatory said. Many more were critically injured.

Government warplanes carried out at least 10 airstrikes in Raqqa, targeting the city's al-Hani Mosque and the public souk, or market, the observatory said, using reports from activists and residents on the ground.

Extremists have made the city, which sits on the banks of the Euphrates River, the de facto capital of their self-declared "Islamic State" that stretches across large areas of Syria and Iraq.

The city is known as a place where ISIS puts training centers, weapons depots and accommodations for fighters.

During the Syrian conflict, the group has also seized military bases from the Syrian regime near the city and in the wider Raqqa province.

On Saturday, at least 40 fighters on both sides were killed as Syrian Kurdish fighters and ISIS militants clashed in the northern Syrian city of Kobani, the observatory said.

Kurdish fighters belonging to the People's Protection Units, known as YPG, have been locked in a death struggle with ISIS fighters for the border city, with 100,000 desperate Syrian Kurds fleeing to Turkish territory.

Five ISIS suicide bombers blew themselves up using cars and explosive belts near the besieged Kurdish city, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Clashes also erupted west of Kobani, with ISIS using tanks to advance and firing at least 110 shells on various areas of the city, the monitoring group said Saturday.

At least 10 YPG fighters and 25 ISIS militants were killed during the clashes, according to the SOHR.

The U.S.-led coalition, meanwhile, conducted five airstrikes in Kobani, including one against an ISIS tank west of the city, the SOHR said.

ISIS has been fighting to take Kobani for more than two months, hoping to add it to the territory it has already captured in parts of Syria and Iraq.

Syria has been embroiled in a three-year civil war, with government troops battling ISIS and other rebels elsewhere, leaving Kobani's ethnic Kurds to defend the city.

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