A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces in Manbij on Saturday. Photo: SDF Press Centre
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have offered a deal to the Islamic State in Manbij in order to save the lives of civilians who the militants are using as human shields, according to a monitoring group.
ISIS militants are holed up in a northern section of the city and have brought with them an estimated thousands of civilians in order to deter airstrikes and ground movements against them.
“We are in the military council of Manbij and from moral and humanitarian responsibilities we allow the IS [ISIS] militants to leave the city for releasing the detained civilians and prisoners,” reads the statement obtained by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Monday.
The Islamic State has been hiding behind the civilian population of Manbij throughout the battle for the city, which was launched in late May. They have also laid a high number of explosives throughout the city, with as many as 600 in a small area in some places. This has slowed the progress of the Kurdish-dominated SDF.
There have also been reports of large numbers of civilian casualties in coalition airstrikes on Manbij and the surrounding areas. The United States is investigating the reports.
The SDF had previously offered ISIS a similar deal in mid-July an effort to protect civilian lives in Manbij saying that they would allow safe passage of the militants out of the city with their light weaponry if they left within 48 hours.
East of Manbij, near Teshreen Dam on the Euphrates River, hundreds of civilians are living out in the open after being asked by the SDF to leave their homes, reported the Observatory on Sunday. Some have been living in the open for seven months, since the SDF took control of the dam.
The Observatory reported that they are suffering “difficult humanitarian situations amid severe shortages in food and proper health conditions.”
The SDF are in control of more than 90% of Manbij and expect to be able to declare victory within a matter of days.