With Manbij fully besieged for two weeks, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are yet to wrestle the city from the ISIS despite extensive U.S. coalition air support. Although the SDF seems in no rush to capture the city, Kurdish forces have seized Manbij’s most western district and rolled back several ISIS attempts at breaking out from the city.
Nevertheless, hundreds of ISIS fighters remain bogged down inside Manbij city with many locals volunteering to become suicide bombers, thus explaining the largely Kurdish SDF’s reluctance to entirely storm the city. Meanwhile, the ISIS is said to have embarked on a campaign of arrests on Kurdish civilians in northeastern Aleppo in a major crackdown on supposed SDF collaborators – some 800 people have reportedly gone missing in the past two weeks.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a total of 446 ISIS militants and 59 SDF fighters have been killed since the Manbij offensive began on May 1st; however, the death toll cannot be independently verified by Al-Masdar News. Manbij is strategically important as it represents a gateway for ISIS into its last border areas with Turkey, a country often used by ISIS to smuggle foreign fighters and weapons into the Islamic State caliphate.
The ISIS has lost approximately 100 villages and a considerable chunk of territory to the SDF since the latter group began its offensive little more than three weeks ago.