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More Fighting Near Syria-Turkish Border

Syrian Kurdish refugees cover themselves from rain after crossing into Turkey from the Syrian border town Kobani, near the southeastern Turkish town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province, Oct. 2, 2014.

Fighting continued to rage Saturday in northern Syria where Islamic State militants are closing in on a Kurdish town near the Turkish border.

Kurdish forces backed by U.S.-led airstrikes are trying to defend the town of Kobani from the militant advance. Kurds have been struggling to repel IS militants for weeks.

The assault has forced more than 160,000 Syrians to flee into Turkey.

VOA's Kurdish service spoke with Idriss D'Abo, an English teacher from Kobani who fled to Turkey and has been watching the fighting from the safety of the Turkish side of the border.

"And here in the place I’m talking to you, as you can see all people gather here and go to the border," he said. "They try to enter Kobani, try to open the door, to send the food or clothes to the people who are fighting ISIS there."

The coalition has been bombing the militants' positions for weeks, but has made little headway. Turkey has also vowed to do whatever it can to keep Kobani — also known as Ayn al Arab — from falling to the militants.

The White House welcomed the Turkish parliament's vote Thursday authorizing Turkish military activity against Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest also praised contributions by Australia, Denmark and the Netherlands to contribute fighter aircraft.

Australia's cabinet approved the deployment of fighter aircraft and Special Forces to Iraq earlier Friday.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it is in Australia's interest to help defeat the extremist group, calling it a "death cult."

The U.S. and some European countries have been conducting airstrikes against the extremists in Iraq since August. Abbott refused to say whether Australia would also consider joining U.S. and Arab countries in striking Islamic State targets in Syria.

Pressure has been mounting on Turkey as IS fighters close in on Kobani. Turkey has vowed to do whatever it can to keep the town from falling to the militants.

In an exclusive interview with VOA's Kurdish service, Ismet Sheikh Hasan, the besieged town's defense chief, said a "large scale massacre" is imminent without international aid. Kurdish fighters defending the area have felt abandoned by U.S.-led coalition forces, despite nearby airstrikes in recent days, he said

Assad appearance

The country’s president made a rare public appearance at a mosque in Damascus for prayers for a Muslim holiday.

A photo sent from Bashar al-Assad’s official Twitter account on Saturday shows him seated on the floor of al-Numan bin Bashir mosque in the front row for the Eid al-Adha celebration.

His appearance came hours after the US-led coalition carried out new airstrikes against Islamic State group militants in Syria.

One of Assad's last public appearances was in July at the presidential palace when he was sworn in for a new term and gave a defiant speech, vowing to recover all Syria from insurgents.

Assad also appeared in public in July to attend prayers for the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of fasting during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

VOA's Kurdish service contributed to this report. Some information for this report comes from AP, AFP and Reuters.

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