Approximately 66,000 people have been forced to flee fighting in northern Syria over the course of the last five months, a U.N. humanitarian agency said Sunday.
Kurdish-led forces, Turkish, Syrian government and Syrian opposition fighters have all been competing for territory near the Turkish-Syrian territory, which was previously held by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are now advancing toward the terrorist group's de-facto capital of Raqqa.
Because SDF are led by the Syrian Kurdish PKK party, Turkey has objected to its offensive and has vowed to disrupt the Raqqa campaign. The reason? Turkey, who is a U.S. ally through NATO, has classified the PKK as a terrorist organization and now views the SDF as an extension of the Kurdish insurgency within its borders.
Turkish forces are already stationed in Al-Bab, which is just 25 southwest of Manbij. Turkey previously threatened to push back against SDF forces in Manbij, so this move prompted SDF to ask Russia and the Syrian army to create a buffer between the cities.
The U.S. deployed armored vehicles to Manbij due to mounting uncertainty. Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. John Dorrian said the deployment is meant to "deter aggression and keep focus on defeating ISIS."
Meanwhile, the U.N. humanitarian agency, OCHA, said the Turkish
and Syrian opposition campaign to capture Al-Baba has displaced thousands of residents.
"This includes nearly 40,000 people from Al-Bab city and nearby Tadef town, as well as, 26,000 people from communities to the east of Al-Bab city," the U.N. humanitarian agency, OCHA," said in a press release.
Even as ISIS retreats, the threat of attacks remains high, according to OCHA.
On. Feb. 24, a car bomb exploded in the Sousian village, which is just north of Al-Bab city, reportedly killing at least 73 people and wounding 125 others, OCHA reports.
It is still unclear how soon humanitarian organizations will have access to Al-Bab city and its surrounding communities to offer aid.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.