Clashes between the Islamic Sate (ISIS) and US-backed Kurdish militias have erupted in the northern ISIS-held Syrian town of Manbij after the group ignored a 48-hour offer to withdraw from the besieged town without a fight, opposition activists and a Kurdish official said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said about 200 civilians fled the town on Friday. A 20-year-old woman among those fleeing died when she stepped on a land mine while trying to escape with her children, the Observatory said.
Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of mainly Kurdish militias 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.
On Thursday, the Manbij Military Council – part of the SDF – said ISIL fighters were given 48 hours to leave the town with their “individual weapons,” saying this was their last opportunity to leave alive.
Sherfan Darwish of the SDF said the group did not respond to the offer and that sporadic clashes erupted on Friday. The ISIL-affiliated Amaq news agency said the US-led coalition carried about 20 airstrikes on the center of Manbij on Friday.
Manbij lies on a key supply route to the group’s de facto capital of Raqqa. If the town is captured by the US-backed fighters it would be the “biggest strategic defeat” for ISIL in Syria since July 2015, when the group lost the border town of Tal Abyad, said Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Turkey-Syria border.
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.”