Syrian Democratic Forces in Manbij countryside. Photo: ARA News
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AMUDE – Senior official of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Dr. Nasir Haji Mansour on Tuesday told ARA News that ISIS is fighting very hard in Manbij city “which is slowing down the operation” that started on 31 May. Moreover, ISIS has started to kill civilians that are trying to flee the city, he said.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on 31 May launched an operation to take the 98-km border pocket of Manbij from militants of the Islamic State (ISIS). So far, the battle has taken a very heavy toll on the SDF-forces.
“If the SDF capture Manbij, all of Aleppo’s countryside would be under threat, because it’s a strategic stronghold for ISIS,” SDF official Mansour told ARA News. “It’s a strategic battle and different from Tel Abyad and Shaddadi [where ISIS just withdrew],” he said.
“If the operation is successful, the connection between ISIS, Turkey and Aleppo’s countryside will be cut off,” he said.
Over the last few days, ISIS militants have been trying to break the SDF siege on the city from four sides, but failed. Nevertheless, SDF advances on the city itself go slow due to booby traps, IEDS and the use of civilians as human shields. “This became big obstacles, the SDF cannot use heavy weapons to save civilians, and the coalition has minimised its airstrikes over Manbij,” he said.
Moreover, ISIS is using tunnels and civilian houses as bases. “Sometimes they use a house, fight against us, then wear civilian clothes and go back to another house. The coalition cannot hit them because they think those are civilians,” the SDF official said in an interview with ARA News on Tuesday.
In the meantime, the US-led coalition said in a statement on Tuesday evening that its fighter jets launched 14 strikes on ISIS strongholds in Manbij, hitting nine separate ISIS tactical units and destroying 17 fighting positions for the group, besides bombing a logistics hub and an artillery piece.
Furthermore, the Syrian Democratic Forces spokesman said that ISIS killed at least 70 civilians when they were trying to flee. “One family tried to escape Manbij city, and they got captured and killed. Others were killed in their cars, when they tried to flee.”
The official refuted recent reports about the SDF snipers targeting civilians.
Although some people claim that the Arab population is against the Kurdish-led SDF, the situation in Manbij –where civilians are trying to reach SDF-lines even risking their lives– show that the civilians are not supporting ISIS.
“This is a proof that all civilians [in Manbij] are against ISIS. They protested against ISIS in Manbij, and they are trying to escape,” he said.
Unlike previous campaigns, this is the first time the SDF completely besieged a city. “ISIS terrorists were getting reinforcements and weapons, that’s why we completely surrounded the city,” he added.
However, the SDF official says ISIS has only one of two solutions in Manbij: “Either they will surrender and give up, or fight against us until they die,” he said. So far, it seems that ISIS has chosen for the last option.
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg
Source: ARA News