Thousands of civilians under siege in Manbij
BEIRUTThousands of civilians were under siege over the weekend in an Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) stronghold surrounded by U.S.-backed forces in northern Syria, as the jihadists claimed June 11 deadly attacks on a Damascus shrine.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) supported by U.S. air strikes encircled the town of Manbij on June 10, cutting the group’s main supply line between Turkey and its de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa.
Manbij lies at the heart of the last stretch of ISIL-controlled territory along Turkey’s border, and was a key point on the jihadists’ supply route.
The SDF consists of Syrian Arabs and Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG), which Turkey regards as a terrorist organization due to its ties with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“Tens of thousands of civilians still there can’t leave as all the routes out of town are cut,” the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor’s head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
He said at least 193 ISIL fighters and 22 SDF troops had been killed as well as 37 civilians, most of the last group in coalition air raids, since the alliance offensive against Manbij began on May 31.
“Bakeries in the town haven’t been open since Friday and food is beginning to become rare,” Abdel Rahman said.
Meanwhile, a double bomb attack outside a Shiite shrine near Syria’s capital killed at least eight people on June 11, in the latest in repeated deadly strikes on the revered site, state media said.
The SANA news agency said a suicide bomber and a car bomb struck at the entrance to the Sayyida Zeinab shrine, which is revered by Shiites around the world.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group, reported a higher toll of at least 12 people killed and 30 wounded in the blasts.
The shrine, around 10 kilometers south of the center of Damascus, is heavily guarded by pro-government forces but has still been the target of several jihadist attacks, including those claimed by ISIL.
The coalition fighting the ISIL in Syria may have accidentally hit allied rebels during an air strike at the end of last month, a U.S. military spokesman said on June 11.
Coalition forces carried out three air strikes against tactical IS units and vehicles near Ma’ra on May 28, Centcom spokesman Colonel Patrick Ryder said in a statement.