SURUC, Turkey - Airstrikes hit Islamic State military sites early Wednesday, targeting eight Kurdish villages that the militants had seized in recent days in northern Syria near the Turkish border, residents reported.
It was not immediately clear who carried out the strikes, but the Syrian government has not previously conducted operations in the area. Residents said they believed the air attacks were carried out by the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State.
The strikes took place overnight; at daybreak Islamic State fighters resumed their offensive on the Kurdish villages, residents reported.
The advance of the Islamic State has spread fear among Kurds, who have been harassed by the extremist militants in both Iraq and Syria. The assault has driven at least 150,000 Syrian Kurdish villagers into Turkey, one of the most dramatic flows of refugees in the three years of the Syrian conflict, and has fueled a mushrooming humanitarian crisis on the border as some refugees are turned away by the Turkish authorities.
Khoshnaw Tillo, who heads a Syrian-Kurdish community organization, said from Gaziantep, Turkey, that contacts inside Syria reported the strikes to the west and south of the Kobani area, the region of Kurdish villages in northern Syria that has been attacked by the Islamic State.
Witnesses interviewed by Reuters said that warplanes arriving from Turkish airspace headed toward Islamic State positions. They said that the Turkish police used tear gas to drive crowds of Syrian Kurds back from the border.
Reuters also reported five new airstrikes on the Syrian-Iraqi border.
Turkish officials said that neither Turkish airspace nor a U.S. air base in the southern Turkish town of Incirlik had been used for the strikes, according to Reuters.
The reported strikes came a day after the first air raids inside Syria by the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State, the extremist militant group that has seized areas of Iraq and Syria.
The chaotic scene on the Turkish-Syria border underscored the complexity of the conflict into which the United States is now inserting itself, with far more force than during the three years of the Syrian civil war.
Turkey, a NATO member, has said it will participate in the coalition against the Islamic State but is wary that the fight against the group is empowering separatist Kurdish militants on both sides of the border.