Thousands of Syrian fighters supported by a small U.S. special operations team launched a major offensive last week to drive Islamic State from the “Manbij pocket”, further east near the Turkish border, which Islamic State has used as a logistics hub.
The U.S.-backed fighters continued to make rapid advances in an offensive against ISIS-held areas in Aleppo province, beginning with the Manbij area where they continued to seize more territory, according to Kurdish sources and the monitor.
The offensive is the second big assault on the self-proclaimed caliphate in recent days after Iraqi forces attempted to storm Falluja in central Iraq.
That thrust, supported by U.S. special forces, aims to deny Islamic State any access to the Turkish frontier, which is crucial for supplies of arms and food.
The Observatory said that these forces were able to reach nearly 5 to 6 km from Manbij town, further tightening the noose around the militants by cutting the town’s main supply routes with Raqqa and laying siege to their fighters dug in the city.
“We made big progress and we are trying to ensure the safety of civilians before we begin our assault on the town,” Sharfan Darweesh, a spokesman for the Military Council for Manbij, a tribal group affiliated with the U.S. backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) was quoted as saying.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday the U.S.-backed offensive was largely being carried out by Arab rather than Kurdish fighters, in a sign of tacit approval for the operation.
The Syria Democratic Forces alliance includes the Kurdish YPG militia, which Turkey views as a terrorist organization and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party militant group, which has waged a three-decade insurgency for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey’s southeast.