Islamic State forces have mounted a major offensive against Kurds in northern Syria, occupying more than a dozen villages in an apparent attempt to capture another border crossing with Turkey, the local government said Thursday.

The villages are near the town of Kobani, known in Arabic as Ayn al-Arab, one of the last major crossing points to Turkey not in Islamic State hands. The Islamists have been trying to seize the town for months and are now attacking from three directions, with tanks, machine-gun mounted Humvees and Grad rockets against nearby villages, said Idris Nassan, who holds the title of deputy foreign minister for the Kobani canton, the administrative district that includes not just the town but the villages that surround it.

Kobani’s Kurdish defenders had been expecting the assault after intercepting Islamic State radio communications. They evacuated at least 15 villages of all but their military-age male inhabitants before the offensive began Wednesday, he said. […]