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Syria’s Manbij: Dividing Line for External Conflicts

Syria’s Manbij: Dividing Line for External Conflicts

Wednesday, 21 March, 2018 - 14:45
Fighters of the Manbij military council, take an overwatch position in the southern rural area of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria. Photo: Reuters
Manbij- Kamal Sheikho
Ismail, 53, didn’t know that his quiet home in the village of Arab Hassan Kabir, on the southern bank of the Sajur River, would one day become a dividing line between two warring sides and that he would sleep every night on the sounds of gunfire and intermittent clashes.

Since mid-2016, the two banks of Sajur River, which is located 15 kilometers north of Manbij in the eastern Aleppo countryside and 30 kilometers south of the Turkish borders, have been transformed into a border strip separating the areas that fall under the control of pro-Turkish Euphrates Shield factions on one hand and the forces of the US-led Manbij Military Council on the other hand.

Manbij is part of Aleppo, 80 km to the north-east and only 40 km from the Turkish borders.

The regime lost control of the city in July 2012, after it was liberated by factions of the Free Syrian Army, and it became under the control of ISIS terrorist organization in the summer of 2014.

However, the "Syrian Democratic Forces" and "Manbij Military Council," with the support of the international coalition, were able to regain control of the city on August 15, 2016 after fierce battles that lasted for more than two months.

“If you turn your face to the west, you will find elements of the Euphrates Shield, accompanied by soldiers and armored vehicles of the Turkish army, and if you look to the east, you will notice the movements of the fighters of Manbij Military Council, accompanied by US soldiers and their military vehicles,” Ismail told Asharq Al-Awsat.

He explained that he lives with his wife and family members in their house, which overlooks Sajur River, and they are accustomed to the new situation that has been created by the divisions of the Syrian war.

“When clashes start between the two parties, we escape and flee from the village to neighboring safe areas, and after these clashes stop, we return back home,” Ismail said.

Yet, he is struggling to continue living his life in light of the fluctuations of the scene in the vicinity of his area, forget the divisions and artificial boundaries, and he hopes that tomorrow will be a better day.

"This situation has been going on for about a year and a half now. God willing, these divisions will end peacefully," he said.

Notably, the 74-kilometer-long Sajur River flows from Turkey and crosses the Syrian border along the Euphrates River in the Ayn Azzah area.

It separates the lands of Aoun al-Daddat, Mahasleni, Arab Hassan, Halawanji and Tukhaz villages, in which they are divided into two parts. Each part falls under the control of a military party that is on a rivalry with the other one, and the river ends by combining with the Euphrates River.

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