UN accuses both the government and rebels of preventing aid delivery to besieged towns.
Kurdish and Arab fighters of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have overrun a key road junction to the south of Manjib city, an ISIL stronghold, after capturing nearby grain silos overnight, a monitoring group has said.
The progress against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) came on Saturday, two days after the alliance fighters entered the key city.
“The grain silos overlook more than half of Manbij. SDF fighters can climb to the top and monitor the city,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Raqqa Revolutionaries Brigades – one of the Arab components of the Kurdish-dominated alliance – confirmed that SDF forces had seized the silos and pushed into the city.
The Mills Roundabout lies less than two kilometres from the city centre.
The observatory said ISIL and the SDF were locked in intense street fighting as ISIL tried to defend their positions.
Hundreds of Kurds fleeing villages near Manbij controlled by the ISIL group came under fire, amid mass abductions by the group, opposition activists and a Kurdish official said.
One family who fled were struck by a mine that killed two family members and wounded the other three, Sherfan Darwish, an SDF spokesman, told the Associated Press news agency. He said a 10-year-old girl was killed by ISIL sniper fire.
“Civilians are defying death in order to leave areas controlled by Daesh,” Darwish said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.
The Local Coordination Committees, another activist-run monitoring group, said ISIL also opened fire at people trying to flee from Manbij, killing 10 of them, including children.
The Syria Democratic Council, the political wing of SDF, called on the international community and aid groups to supply those fleeing with whatever they need, saying many of them are in open areas.
The SDC called on the world to help the SDF “prevent the occurrence of a catastrophe or a massacre,” saying there were “indications” one might happen.
Captured by ISIL in 2014, Manbij was a key transit point for foreign fighters and funds, as well as a trafficking hub for oil, antiquities and other plundered goods.
The SDF launched its offensive to take Manbij on May 31, driving across the Euphrates River from the east with military advice from about 200 US special forces troops.
ISIL has thrown large numbers of fighters into the battle, losing 463, according to the observatory. The SDF has lost at least 89.
Manbij lies in the eastern plains of Aleppo province, which has become a battleground between an array of competing armed groups, including al-Qaeda, moderate rebels and government forces, as well as the SDF and ISIL.