Thousands of civilians fled Manbij city in Aleppo province toward the north as the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) advanced on the city, blockading it from three directions in an effort to force out the Islamic State group.
ISIS allowed citizens to escape the impending attack on Manbij as the SDF laid siege to the city, with some cramming into cars with all their possessions while others were forced to flee on foot.
About 20,000 civilians resided in Manbij prior to the attack and about 120,000 before the civil war started in 2011. One quarter of the city’s population were Kurds while the rest were Arabs and Turkmen.
The recent offensive on Manbij is one of three attacks ISIS has been forced to counter in order to protect its main supply route starting from Raqqa, the group’s main stronghold in Syria, through Tabaqa city to reach Manbij in Aleppo’s northern countryside and Jarablus on the Turkish border.
The SDF was able to advance toward the city under air cover from the US-led international coalition forces in the surroundings of the city at night, with units now positioned around five kilometers away to the north.
SDF units are also advancing toward the city from the south and the east as they attempt to give the jihadists only one way out of the city.
Sharfan Darwish, SDF commander in Manbij, said: "We are blockading the city from three directions and the operations are going well."
He added: "We have closed the road between Manbij and Jarablus, and we have advanced to the west. We were also able to cut off the road between Manbij and Raqqa, and the only road that is still open is the road that leads to the west of Aleppo."
In the event the SDF takes Manbij, they would be able to sever ISIS' main supply route connecting its de facto Syrian capital in Raqqa and the Turkish borders.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.