Thousands of civilians fled a northern Syrian town in anticipation of a final push by US-backed forces to liberate it from Islamic State rule on Thursday, as airstrikes pounded rebel-held districts in Aleppo, killing 15 civilians and damaging 3 hospitals.
The Syrian Democratic Forces have all but encircled Manbij, a key waypoint on an IS supply line between the Turkish border and the extremist group’s de-facto capital, Raqqa, according to an SDF adviser.
Nasser Haj Mansour said that the IS group was allowing families to flee the town to nearby Jarablus and al-Bab. Some civilians fled to liberated villages and to the advancing forces, the adviser told the AP by messaging service from his position near the front line. He estimated some 15,000 civilians had fled.
The SDF have retaken some 70 villages and farms from IS militants in their campaign, which is now entering its tenth day, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Kurdish-led force, which also includes Arab fighters, has advanced under the cover of US-led airstrikes, and the US has embedded 300 Special Forces troops with it, though Washington says they are there in an advisory capacity.