Thousands of Syrian civilians have fled the key town of Manbij held by Daesh, as forces closes in on the Takfiri group’s northern stronghold, a London-based monitor says.
A coalition of mainly Kurdish and Arab forces are advancing on Manbij from three directions after crossing the Euphrates River in a major offensive against Daesh, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“We have surrounded Manbij from three sides and operations are progressing well,” said Sherfan Darwish, who is leading the offensive.
“Every day, we are liberating villages and the only route open to IS (Daesh) now is towards Aleppo City” to the west, he added.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is now within five kilometers (three miles) of Manbij from the north, two kilometers from the south and about seven kilometers from the east, the monitoring group said.
The observatory’s head Rami Abdel Rahman said Daesh has begun allowing civilians to flee towards the west, some in cars but many carrying their belongings on foot.
About 20,000 people are still living in Manbij which had a pre-war population of about 120,000, mostly Arabs.
US military officials said the raid in Manbij is supported by American special operations forces, who are allegedly acting as advisers and staying some distance back from the frontline.
Militants kill 20 in Aleppo
On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Russian center for the reconciliation of the opposing sides in Syria said at least 20 people were killed in rocket attacks carried out by foreign-backed militants in Aleppo.
Forty others were injured in the mortar attack carried out by al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front and Ahrar asl-Sham militants against administrative buildings as well as residential areas of Meydan and al-Muhafaza districts.
Syria has been gripped by militancy since March 2011. UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict.