BEIRUT: The Islamic State jihadist group has executed at least 24 civilians after seizing a village in northern Syria from a US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance, a monitor said yesterday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said IS executed 24 civilians “in the last 24 hours” after taking Buyir from the Syrian Democratic Forces. The village is located some 10 kilometers northwest of Manbij, a key waypoint between the Turkish border and the IS de facto capital of Raqa city.
IS seized control of several villages in the countryside northwest of Manbij since launching a “fierce assault” on Thursday, according to the Observatory, which relies on sources inside Syria for its information. The SDF, backed by air strikes from a US-led coalition, launched an offensive to retake Manbij from IS on May 31. The alliance managed to enter the town but have since faced fierce opposition from the jihadists who have fought back with suicide bombers and car bombs. More than 280,000 have been killed and millions displaced in Syria’s five-year conflict.
End Aleppo siege
Meanwhile, aid agencies called yesterday on Syria’s government to end its encirclement of rebel-held east Aleppo as a handful of civilians managed to use humanitarian corridors to flee the ruined city. Pro-regime forces have surrounded Aleppo’s eastern districts since July 17, leaving an estimated 250,000 trapped without reliable access to food or medical aid. Russia, a key ally of President Bashar Al-Assad, on Thursday announced the opening of humanitarian passages for civilians and surrendering fighters seeking to exit the city’s rebel-held eastern neighborhoods.
The Red Cross welcomed the corridors but said Russia and pro-government forces had an obligation to protect everyone in Aleppo, once Syria’s economic hub and a battleground city seen as key in its five-year-old conflict. “Those who decide, for whatever reason, to stay in Eastern Aleppo must be protected, and all sides must allow humanitarian agencies to reach and assess their well-being and needs,” the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement.
Residents have reported food shortages and spiraling prices in rebel districts since regime forces cut off the opposition’s main supply route into the northern city. The US-based International Rescue Committee said those left behind in east Aleppo risked starvation and called for a humanitarian pause in fighting. “The people of Aleppo should not be forced to choose between fleeing their homes and remaining under attack in a besieged area,” said IRC’s acting Middle East director Zoe Daniels.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Thursday that three humanitarian corridors were being opened “to aid civilians held hostage by terrorists and for fighters wishing to lay down their arms”. But only a few Aleppo residents were able to leave eastern neighborhoods through the passages before rebels prevented them from fleeing, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. “Around 12 people managed to use the Bustan al-Qasr corridor before rebel groups reinforced security measures and prevented families from approaching the corridors,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.- Agencies