Anticipating a long and bloody battle, nearly 17,000 civilians fled Tal Abyad into Turkish territory, where they were placed in improvised shelters not far from the city of Akcakale.
Explaining the importance of the liberation of the strategic town, Abd Salam Ali, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party's representative to Russia, noted that "for more than two years, the Kobani Canton was under a total blockade. It was necessary to break through. The only way to do so was to connect Kobani with Qamishli [a city in northeast Syria]. For 39 or 40 days our fighters from the Jazira canton [in northeast city] have been on the offensive. They began liberating the area through Raqqa province, advancing toward Tal Abyad. Simultaneously, forces from Kobani [in the northwest] also advanced on the city. Yesterday at about noon these two fronts joined up 30km south of the city."
Abd Salam Ali told Sputnik that prior to the advance, YPG fighters feared that ISIL forces would put up a fight for the city. "Naturally, we feared that ISIL would hold on to Tal Abyad, and that we would have to fight hard inside the city. But, thank goodness, they could not put up a resistance. Some fled toward Raqqa; others gave up their weapons on Turkish territory. The battles for the city did not last more than twelve hours, and the city has been completely liberated."
The Democratic Union Party representative slammed Turkey over its cold reaction to the collapse of ISIL presence in the border town, noting that Turkey has had an ambiguous relationship with the terror militant group since the start of the conflict. "They are willing to see ISIL as their neighbors, but not the Kurds," Abd Salam Ali noted. "Apparently, they see some sort of danger from the Kurds, while the Islamic State is a completely murky entity. Through this town, terrorists and weapons came to Syria, while Syrian oil, grain and other resources were sent [north]."
Speaking with Sputnik, freelance journalist Mustafa Ali, who had tagged along with the YPG advance against ISIL forces, noted that militia morale is very high, and confirmed that Tal Abyad has been completely cleared of militants, with the town safe for travel by car. Ali confirmed jubilation among civilians over the town's liberation. "Citizens who had decided to stay in Tal Abyad met the fighters with sincere joy.
Ali explained that the operation to liberate the town was difficult, given Kurdish forces scarce supply of heavy weaponry. "The liberation of the town was a very difficult task, since the YPG units were armed mainly with machineguns, while ISIL forces had access to heavy artillery, brought up from Mosul. Still, despite the fact that the advance took a long time, it ended with victory," Ali noted.
Ali noted that the path toward victory in Tal Abyad was laid in Kobani. "When the Jihadists began their attacks on Kobani, everyone was convinced that they would win, but the People's Protection Units did not surrender, digging in and defending to the last man, which ultimately resulted in their victory."