The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) succeeded in entering the city of Manbij, an ISIS stronghold, yesterday for the first time. This came a week after the city was surrounded, ISIS’ supply routes were cut off and a large bulk of its rural areas were seized. The forces, which are mainly made up of Kurdish and Arab fighters, managed to penetrate the city from the west and seize the Kuttab roundabout with unprecedented international military support. This support included air strikes and joint leadership of battles on the ground by US and French special forces and German advisers.
Sources on the ground told Asharq Al-Awsat that after the operation to capture the city from the northern part of it failed, the forces entered through the western side. The sources added that “the difficult and complex military operation waged by the Syrian Democratic Forces may last for a month and a half, especially as ISIS is deliberately booby-trapping homes and digging trenches and tunnels. This means that overcoming these obstacles will require lots of time and effort.” The sources also mentioned that “all eyes are currently on the area in which there are hiding places. When they fall, capturing the city as a whole will become easier”.
On his part, Munthir Salaal, an activist and a member of the Free Aleppo Governorate Council who is from Manbij City said that the Syrian Democratic Forces are not just attacking one front. Rather, “they are trying to enter the city from all four sides with heavy air support from coalition aircraft. This support contributed to the forces’ progress to the western entrance and the capturing of the Kuttab roundabout. He told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the greatest military force is concentrated at the western entrance where Kurdish fighters are stationed side by side with American and French special forces and German advisers.”
Salaal explained that the number of civilians trapped inside the city exceeds 200,000 and pointed out that “all fighting parties are using them as human shields”. He added that “The strikes carried out by coalition aircraft destroyed Manbij’s infrastructure. After the University Union was completely destroyed, the city’s mills which are considered to be one of the largest Syrian establishments that produce flour were demolished”. He also pointed out that these mills provided about 500 tons of flour to Aleppo and its countryside daily.