Civilians flee ISIS stronghold surrounded by US-backed forces (VIDEO)
Securing Manbij is of vital importance as it serves as one of the key routes for IS (formerly ISIS/ISIL) terror group to smuggle supplies from Turkey. During the offensive to take full control of the city which began late May, the US-led Coalition conducted airstrikes, in support of the SDF advances.
After fully encircling Manbij on June 8, the SDF – which includes the Kurdish YPG militia – continues to fight its way into the city center. Feeling that liberation from the IS yoke is nearing, after more than two years under terrorist control, civilians began to flee en masse, despite a clear ban from the terrorist group that threatens retribution over the exodus.
IS has long championed the civilian shield tactics to protect their positions in Syria. To secure their assets the terrorist group has reportedly set up checkpoints across Manbij to stop civilians from escaping and kill anyone trying to flee.
Those who managed to cross into the SDF-controlled areas are greeted by the US-backed fighters that are doing everything possible to save the lives of the city's residents.
“A group of IS militants entered the Dawar Kitab and Matachin. We fortified ourselves here in order to save the civilians, to save as many civilians and to meet them in order to save all of them,” an SDF soldier told RT Arabic.
According to RT crew on the ground, up to 80 percent of civilians managed to escape IS control. It is also reported that the exodus was prompted by mass rallies held in the city urging jihadist to abandon their positions. IS responded with deadly force against the protesters, which encouraged the rest to run for their lives.
“We escaped but it was very dangerous. The road was opened. The clashes stopped and we tried to leave. We have succeeded. If Allah wills, everyone will be able to leave,” one refugee said.
Fleeing citizens shared the horrors they were forced to endure in the IS-held city, with one resident telling RT that they were forced to flee because of “IS cruelty.”
“They are not afraid of Allah. They pretend to be Muslims. They have to be ashamed of themselves,” the refugee added.
Women who fled the IS-controlled area tore off their black clothing as a sign of freedom.
“They made us wear black clothes. We had no freedom. Everyone protects their freedom. Really? They did a lot of things to us. With us, our kids, men. They forced us to starve, to be thirsty. May Allah deprive them good luck,” one female refugee said.
But despite being fully encircled by the SDF forces, IS fighters continue their resolve to launch a counter strike to uphold their rule in the Aleppo Governorate city, some 30km west of the Euphrates River. RT discovered a number of tunnels in the city that could be used by the jihadists to replenish their supplies or flee the city as the opposition forces make the final push.
On Monday, IS attacked SDF forces from the of al-Bab, Jarabulus and the village of Arima, the Manbij Military Council said on Monday, according to ARA news. The Kurdish fighters managed to repel the attack.
“We can enter the city of Manbij easily, but the only obstacle for us is civilians. We have helped 7,000 to 8,000 people to escape the city,” Heval Shiyar, a local SDF commander told ARA News on the Manbij frontlines. “That’s why the operation goes slowly towards the city.”
To secure its positions in the Aleppo province, IS has reportedly captured around 700 mainly-Kurdish civilians in the countryside of Jarablus, Azaz, and al-Bab in the northern Aleppo province. The jihadist also killed people who were trying to escape.
“The majority of those arrested by IS militants on Monday were Kurdish civilians,” member of the Shahba documentation center Muhammad Kalo told ARA News, adding that 12 people were killed for “trying to escape before IS captured them.”