US-backed Kurdish militias have given the Islamic State (ISIS) group 48 hours to leave their stronghold of Manbij in Syria, two days after US-coalition airstrikes killed 120 civilians in the besieged city.
Thursday’s announcement comes two days after strikes launched by the US-led coalition fighting ISIS reportedly killed at least 120 civilians in the northern city of Manbij of the Aleppo governate.
“This initiative is the last remaining chance for besieged members of ISIS to leave the town,” the Manbij Military Council, part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, said, according to AFP news agency.
Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of mainly Kurdish fighters backed by the US, launched an offensive against ISIS to retake the city of Manbij in May. Kurdish militias aim at controlling Manbij to complete their control over northern Syria and pave the way to their autonomy goal.
They have besieged the town and are advancing to the city centre under the cover of air strikes by the US-led international coalition.
The council said that ISIL fighters would be allowed to take individual light weapons with them.
The statement also called for civilians to try to leave the town or distance themselves from areas where clashes are taking place.
“We took this decision now after ISIL used residents as human shields, after the media pressure on us, and to protect whatever civilians are left in the town,” an SDF commander told AFP on the condition of anonymity.
The US-led coalition has said it is investigating reports of civilian deaths in the strikes.
“The US central command has confirmed to Al Jazeera that it was conducting air strikes in the area and says it needs to investigate allegations of whether civilians were injured or killed in this incident,” Al Jazeera’s Rosiland Jordan, reporting from Washington on Tuesday, said.
Clashes and air strikes continued on Thursday in Manbij, where SDF forces advanced overnight, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said SDF fighters seized a southern district of the town, “bringing them the closest they have been to the centre of Manbij”.
120 Syrian civilians killed by US-coalition airstrikes in Manbij
At least 120 civilians, including 11 children, have been killed in US-led air strikes against areas in Syria, Manbij and Jarablas, held by the Islamic State, activists said.
Fifty civilians lost their lives after the U.S.-led coalition’s jets attacked the city of Jarablas in Aleppo eastern countryside, Orient News correspondent said.
Also, no less than 70 civilians have been killed by the U.S.-led coalition’s jets in the city of Manbij in Aleppo eastern countryside.
“Horrible massacre was committed by the US-led coalition. Civilians were killed en masse. There were innumerable bodies lying on the ground. I could not believe the way in which civilians were slaughtered,” Orient News correspondent quoted a eye witness who was in the scene of the massacre as saying.
Al Jazeera’s Rosiland Jordan, reporting from Washinton, said that at least one town near the city of Manbij was allegedly hit by a coalition strike and that many of the casualties were reportedly women and children.
“The US central command has confirmed to Al Jazeera that it was conducting air strikes in the area and says it needs to investigate allegations of whether civilians were injured or killed in this incident.”
Director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdel-Rahman told DPA news agency: “We believe that the raids which were carried out Tuesday were by US [or] allied planes.”