SDF troops delay liberation of Manbij city to avoid civilian casualties

SDF fighters monitoring ISIS movements in Manbij suburb. Photo: ARA News

ARA News 

KOBANE – The SDF-led Manbij Military Council on Monday said that they have completely besieged the ISIS-held city of Manbij in northern Syria, but will wait with entering the city immediately to ensure the safety of civilians. Tens of thousands of civilians are trapped in the city, and ISIS does not allow them to leave to safety.

“After the Manbij Military Council [of the Syrian Democratic Forces] achieved several victories of the countryside and besieging the city completely, and controlling the supply routes of ISIS terrorists, and advanced plans to avoid endangering civilians, we assure that we will guarantee their safety,” the council said.

According to senior Kurdish official Ilham Ahmed, co-head of the Syrian Democratic Council, “Manbij is now surrounded, and the civilians now appeal to the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] to come and finish the oppression of ISIS.” 

At least 69 ISIS fighters were killed in renewed clashes with SDF near Manbij.

“We heard that the terrorist organization of ISIS is holding civilians as hostage and using them as human shields, and we ask our people to avoid ISIS locations and places near the clashes. We are careful not to raid the city after its encirclement, because we are care about the safety of civilians,” the council said. “We follow international law, principles and standards, but we vow our people in Manbij that we will continue the operation by the name of martyr Faisal Abu Layla [top SDF commander killed in battle for Manbij] until we liberate Manbij and the countryside completely from ISIS,” the council said.

Speaking to ARA News, Kurdish official Idris Nasan said: “There are still 10,000 to 20,000 civilians inside Manbij, and there are more than 2,000 ISIS fighters. If they [SDF] enter Manbij now, they will lose a lot of fighters.”

“Moreover, this will hurt a lot of civilians, and the SDF don’t want to lose fighters or civilians, that’s why they are besieging Manbij city, cleaning the countryside and cut any chance of supplies for ISIS,” he said.

“They will intervene in a suitable time, but they will not rush it and enter from weak points until they control the entire city. Manbij is a big city, and not easy to control in 1 or 2 days,” Nasan added.

Meanwhile, heavy clashes continued in the vicinity of the Manbij grain silos near the village of Hamden–about 3 kilometers from the city of Manbij.

Moreover, the Kurdish Red Crescent set up a health centre in the town of Abu Qalqal, 12 kilometers from Tishrin dam, on the demand of the health committee of the Manbij civilian council to provide medical services to civilians in the liberated areas near Manbij city.

The US-led coalition against ISIS thinks that the operation to take the city will be difficult. “Manbij will be a big test. It will be one of the most strategic blows to ISIL [ISIS] yet because it is their hub of foreign fighters. It is their main kind of access route from Raqqa,” said US envoy Brett mcGurk. “And so I suspect they will fight for it.  But we feel pretty good about the plan — not only the military plan, but importantly the post-ISIL plan.”

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg 

Source: ARA News 

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