ISIL trapped in town near Turkish border
Fighters of the Syria Democratic Forces take an overwatch position as their fellow fighters advance in the southern rural area of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria May 31, 2016 - REUTERS photoThe Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has become trapped inside Manbij a town near the Turkish border after U.S.-backed forces seized the last route going into the city on June 10.
The extremists lost control of a vital supply artery when Arab-Kurdish forces completely surrounded the key jihadist-held town.
“The Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF] cut off the last road from Manbij to the Turkish border,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group, according to AFP.
“There’s no road left... they’re all cut,” Reuters quoted the observatory’s director, Rami Abdel Rahman, as saying.
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).
Manbij lies at the heart of the last stretch of territory along Turkey’s border still under ISIL control, and was a key point on the jihadists’ supply line from Turkey.
Other secondary roads to the frontier are more dangerous and difficult to access, Abdel Rahman said.
The U.S. envoy to the anti-ISIL coalition backing the SDF, Brett McGurk, confirmed the road had been severed.
“ISIL terrorists now completely surrounded with no way out,” he wrote on Twitter on Jan. 10.
ISIL has come under growing pressure on various fronts in Syria and Iraq, where it established its self-declared “caliphate” in 2014.
This week the SDF, backed by coalition air strikes, cut the road north out of Manbij to the ISIL-held border town of Jarablus, which the jihadists had used as a transit point for fighters, money and weapons.
The SDF also blocked the road south out of Manbij heading to ISIL’s de facto capital of Raqqa.
“For the jihadists to reach the Turkish border from Raqqa, they now have to take a route that is more dangerous because of regime troops nearby and Russian air strikes,” Abdel Rahman said.
Meanwhile, the United Nations said June 10 it was still awaiting approval from Damascus to reach two besieged areas in Syria, correcting information provided by its top envoy to the war-torn country.
“The U.N. is able to deliver to 17 out of 19 besieged areas,” Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the U.N.’s humanitarian office (OCHA), told AFP.
Syria’s government has so far withheld written approval for al-Wa’er in Homs and Zabadani in rural Damascus, the U.N. said, clarifying information given June 9 by envoy Staffan de Mistura, who mistakenly told reporters that approval for all 19 areas had been granted.
On the same day, an international aid convoy reached the Syrian government-besieged town of Daraya overnight, delivering food supplies for the first time since 2012, Laerke said.
Trucks from the U.N. and Syrian Arab Red Crescent brought a month’s supply of food for 2,400 people as well as health and hygiene items for the entire estimated population of 4,000 in the rebel-held town near Damascus, Laerke said.
“It was quite a feat,” Laerke told a news briefing, adding it was “the first time in years” that the world body had delivered food to Daraya, where malnutrition has been reported.