U.N. Warns Manbij Battle Could Uproot More Than 200,000 Syrians

Civilians wait in a shelter while fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces secure their village after they took control of it from Daesh fighters, in the southern rural area of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria. The United Nations has warned that the Manbij battle could uproot more than 200,000 Syrians. REUTERS/Rodi Said

GENEVA, June 6 – A U.S.-backed offensive to retake the Daesh-held northern Syrian city of Manbij has displaced some 20,000 civilians and could uproot about 216,000 more if it continues, a U.N. humanitarian agency said on Monday.

Syrian fighters have surrounded Manbij from three sides as they press the onslaught against the jihadists near the Turkish border, a spokesman for the fighters said on Monday.

The report by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said it was possible people would “face impediments” to moving out of Daesh-controlled areas and they had a critical need for shelter, drinking water, food and health care.

Civilians were mainly moving north towards nearby towns and to the Jarablous border crossing with Turkey or west towards areas held by other rebel groups, while lesser numbers had gone south to villages along the Euphrates River.

OCHA said newly uprooted people might try to head towards Al-Bab or Azaz, two towns west of Manbij, or south to the Maskanah plain close to Lake Assad.

Offensives aimed at rolling back Daesh insurgents around Tabqa could also trigger displacement, OCHA said. Tabqa, close to the Euphrates Dam at the other end of Lake Assad from Manbij, is the apparent target of a Russian-backed offensive by Syrian pro-government forces.

The OCHA report gave no figures or details of potential displacement caused by that battle.

Both the U.S.- and Russian-backed assaults appear to threaten the Daesh stronghold of Raqqa, its capital in Syria, and both began last week shortly after the Iraqi army attempted to storm Daesh-held Falluja in Iraq.

A spokesman for U.S.-backed forces said on Monday Daesh militants had been fleeing Manbij with their families as the Syria Democratic Forces advanced to within 6 km (4 miles) in an attack that has killed more than 150 jihadists.

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