The Turkish tanks, each parked behind a large mound of earth, pointed their turrets toward the border, less than a mile away, where Islamic State, since Sept. 19, has been besieging the town of Ayn al-Arab—or Kobane, as the ethnic Kurds who live there call it. Inside a medical tent by the Yumurtalik border gate, two boys, both in their early teens from Syria, lay naked on a blue gurney, their bodies covered with shrapnel wounds. They had walked into a minefield, they said, as they tried to make it across into Turkey.
Nearby, a woman stood beside a small hill of carpets and bags, a purple head scarf wrapped around her entire face to protect her from the wind and the desert sands. She and her family made for the border more than a week ago, she said, after they saw the black Islamic State flag hoisted in a neighboring village and heard the shelling approach. “They bombed our houses with tanks and artillery,” she says. “My cousin was shot. They beheaded my neighbor.”