With air cover of U.S.-led coalition jets, “Syria Democratic Forces” (SDF) made progress on Saturday on the villages of Haj Abdeen al-Sheikh Tabbash in the west and south of Manbij in Aleppo eastern countryside, activists said.
Syria Democratic Forces includes essentially the Kurdish militias, as YPG, that are accused of committing ethnic crimes against Syrian civilians as they seek to force control over wide areas in northern Syria.
On the western and northern fronts SDF took control over Om al-Satah, Madna, Tal Akhdar villages and the road which links Jerables to Menbij, 4 kilometers from the city.
On the border with Turkey, U.S.-backed Syrian forces fought to the western entrance of Manbij city for the first time since a major offensive to seize the last territory held by Islamic State militants on the frontier, a source said on Saturday.
The source from the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance said its troops were now almost two km from the city center.
Since the start of the offensive on May 31, the SDF has taken dozens of villages and farms around Manbij but has held back from entering the city with many thousands of people still trapped there.
Monitoring groups estimate that about 200.000 civilians are now in the city of Menbij, they have become in dire conditions after “SDF” cut all basic services of water and electricity.
Bakeries are working half the time. Markets are almost empty and prices have also risen sharply, sources reported from inside the city.
Fears among civilians have prevailed since the “SDF” have announced launching their offensive to take control over the Menbij last month. Meanwhile, ISIS judges passed a Fatwa which stated that it is lawful to kill those civilians who decide to leave from Menbij to SDF-controlled areas. ISIS also threatened to take revenge on those who welcomed the SDF ruling of their territories.
Kurdish militias and autonomy plans
As an alliance of U.S.-backed militias advance against Islamic State in northern Syria, their political allies are making progress of their own toward a new federal system of government which they hope will take root in newly captured areas.
The autonomous federation being planned by Syrian Kurdish parties and their allies is taking shape fast: a constitution should be finalised in three months, and possibly sooner, to be followed quickly by-elections, a Kurdish official said.
The YPG has been the most effective partner for the United States against Islamic State in Syria. Yet Turkey views it as a terrorist group due to its ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is waging an insurgency in southeast Turkey.
In fact, Kurdish militias use US support to launch offensives against new areas under the term of fighting ISIS, while the force the Arab citizens to flee their homes, so the Kurdish militias can force control over new areas and add it to their cantons.
They are accused of making ethnic crimes against Arab citizens in northern Syria.
Syrian Kurdish groups have made no secret of their aim to link up their two autonomous regions, or cantons, in northeastern Syria with one further west – Afrin. All that’s preventing them is the 80 km stretch of territory at the Turkish border held by ISIS near Manbij and further west by Turkey-backed rebel groups that are hostile to the YPG.
The plan had taken on even greater significance since the Syria Democratic Forces alliance, which is spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia, mounted a rapid new advance westwards this month into Islamic State’s last foothold at the Turkish border.
It holds out the prospect of more areas being included in the federation, plans for which were first unveiled in March.