Islamic State counter-attack in Syria regains some ground

The recent US-backed offensive against the IS-held strategic city of Manbij was reported as having reached the edge of the city. However on the morning of June 20, the offensive suffered a serious setback.

The IS forces retook nearby villages that had been captured by the Kurdish YPG. Two villages were retaken and there were claims that there had been summary execution of villagers and that some 500 Kurds had been taken and would be used as human shields in upcoming battles.
The director of the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, Rami Rahman said: “ISIL is trying to defend Manbij by sending fighters from outside the town to attack the SDF in these villages. Daesh executed residents." "Daesh" refers to the Islamic State. The SDF stands for Syrian Democratic Forces a coalition of groups but with Kurds predominating. It is backed by the US which had carried out airstrikes to defend the villages. Rahman said five SDF fighters had been killed and 42 IS fighters by the airstrikes.
The offensive has been slowed by constant suicide attacks. The town has been held by IS since 2014 and is a key supply route to the capital Raqqa to the south. The route passes through the Turkish border then Manbij and down southeast through the town of Tabqa to Raqqa.
The IS is fiercely defending the town of Tabqa which has been under attack by Assad-regime forces backed by Russians, since early June. IS tried to counter-attack against Syrian troops south-west of the town but the attack failed. The attack killed six government troops and 14 IS fighters according to the Observatory.
Rahman claimed: “ISIL dispatched 300 fighters from Raqqa to Tabqa to help defend the town,." The militants launched a second counter-attack later in the afternoon and were able to seize many positions south-west of the town and were able to push back the regime forces as far as 20 kilometers from the Tabqa airport. In the fighting, IS is said to have lost 21 fighters while the regime forces lost 32.
The two counter-attacks have given a bit more breathing space for the defense of their Syrian "capital" Raqqa. IS has been suffering a series of setbacks in a number of places having lost most of Fallujah in Iraq and also most of Sirte their last stronghold in Libya. While the IS is obviously down at present it is not out by any means.


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