Thousands Flee as US-Backed Rebels Seize Much of Syria’s Manbij

Spokesman: Rebels Control About 70% of City

by Jason Ditz, July 31, 2016

Thousands of civilians have poured out of the northern Syrian city of Manbij in recent days, as US-backed Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) launched new offensives, pushing deeper into the city, and claiming to have control of around 70% of the city.

The SDF, dominated by Kurdish YPG forces, have been attacking Manbij since May, backed by heavy US airstrikes. The US strikes in recent weeks have been causing a soaring number of civilian deaths, with hundreds slain in certain recent attacks.

Manbij has been under ISIS control for a long time, and is a key route through which fighters get to the capital city of Raqqa from territories along the Turkish border in Aleppo Province. The loss of the city would force ISIS fighters to use longer, more dangerous routes.

The ISIS forces still in Manbij are centered around the old quarter of the city and the northeast. They’ve lost substantial territory in Manbij before only to recover it later with counterattacks in the surrounding area. The city’s substantial value means ISIS will likely make serious efforts to keep resisting the loss of it.

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