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Syria war: ISIL given '48 hours' to leave Manbij

Ultimatum by US-backed forces comes days after coalition strikes allegedly killed 56 civilians in the northern city.

Syrian Democratic Forces

US-backed Syrian rebels have given the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group 48 hours to leave their stronghold of Manbij in Syria. 

Thursday's announcement comes two days after strikes launched by the US-led coalition fighting ISIL (also known as ISIS) reportedly killed at least 56 civilians in the Tokhar area in the northern city of Manbij of the Aleppo governate. 

"This initiative is the last remaining chance for besieged members of Da'esh (the Arabic acronym for ISIL) to leave the town," the Manbij Military Council, part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, said according to AFP news agency.

The SDF, an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters backed by the US, launched an offensive against ISIL to retake Manbij late last month.

They have besieged the town and are advancing to the city centre under the cover of air strikes by the US-led international coalition.


READ MORE: Syria war - dozens killed in 'US-led strikes' on Manbij 


The council said that ISIL fighters would be allowed to take individual light weapons with them.

The statement also called for civilians to try to leave the town or distance themselves from areas where clashes are taking place.

"We took this decision now after ISIL used residents as human shields, after the media pressure on us, and to protect whatever civilians are left in the town," an SDF commander told AFP on the condition of anonymity. 

The US-led coalition has said it is investigating reports of civilian deaths in the strikes.

The US central command has confirmed that it was conducting air strikes in the area and says it needs to investigate allegations of whether civilians were injured or killed in this incident.

Clashes and air strikes continued on Thursday in Manbij, where SDF forces advanced overnight, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said SDF fighters seized a southern district of the town, "bringing them the closest they have been to the centre of Manbij".

ISIL has held the city since 2014, the year that the armed group seized control of large parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq and declared its "caliphate".

The Syrian conflict began with mostly unarmed demonstrations against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011 but quickly turned into a civil war.

More than 280,000 people have been killed, while half the country's population have been forced from their homes, according to United Nations estimates.


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