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UN agency warns Syria fighting could displace over 200,000

The UN has warned that clashes in the area of Manbij could lead to thousands displaced. The organization says that tens of thousands have already been forced to flee.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), a UN humanitarian agency, said on Monday that increased fighting in the area could force nearly 216,000 people to leave their homes.

This is in addition to as many as 20,000 individuals in the area who have already been displaced.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is backed by the US-led coalition fighting the so-called "Islamic State" (IS), launched an offensive against IS on May 30 in an effort to drive the terrorist group from the eastern Aleppo governate.

Multi-pronged assault on IS

The offensive has met with considerable success since the beginning of June, with SDF forces, backed by airstrikes,

retaking strategic villages on the outskirts of Manbij

, including Halulah, Gvenah and Al Arandas. Amid these rapid gains, the UN estimates that up to 20,000 people have left their homes and headed toward mostly northern areas deemed as safe.

The rebel fighters' attacks come as Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, make considerable gains against IS in Raqqa, the group's de facto capital. One of the army's main goals is to take back the Taqba air base, which was captured by IS in 2014.

OCHA said the fighting in and around Taqba could also trigger displacement, although the agency didn't give any concrete numbers regarding potential displaced persons in relation to that battle.

blc/kms (Reuters)

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