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US-backed fighters in Syria renew offer to IS to leave northern town of Manbij without a fight

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BEIRUT (AP) -- U.S.-backed fighters in northern Syria renewed an offer Monday to Islamic State militants in Manbij, saying that if they allow civilians to leave the besieged northern town IS fighters will be allowed to leave too and will not be attacked.

Members of the predominantly Kurdish U.S.-backed Syria Democratic Forces have been on the offensive in Manbij since late May, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes. SDF said the offer is meant to protect civilians.

Monday's offer by the SDF-linked Manbij Military Council came days after the extremists ignored an earlier, 48-hour offer to leave the town safely with just their "individual weapons."

It said that if IS allows all civilians to leave and releases all the prisoners it is holding, SDF would in return grant wounded IS militants and whoever wants to go with them safe passage to nearby areas under IS control.

The council urged IS to send a delegation of dignitaries from Manbij to discuss the matter.

The IS-linked Aamaq news agency said 10 SDF fighters were killed in fighting in Manbij over the past day. The agency did not mention the SDF offer.

Manbij is an IS hub and lies on a key supply route to the Islamic State group's de facto capital of Raqqa. If Manbij is captured by the U.S.-backed fighters, it will be the biggest strategic defeat for IS in Syria since July 2015, when the extremist group lost the border town of Tal Abyad.

Also Monday, opposition monitoring groups said government helicopter gunships dropped barrel bombs on residential neighborhoods of Aleppo.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 12 people were killed, including a local rebel commander, in strikes by government helicopters on the rebel-held Aleppo neighborhood of Mashhad.

Also Monday, the Syrian military said an Israeli plane fired two missiles at a building near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, causing only material damage. The statement by the Syrian Armed Forces published by state-run news agency SANA did not provide more details.

The Israeli military said it hit a position in Syria from where mortars had been fired into the Israeli-held Golan Heights earlier that day. It said the mortars fired into Israel were likely errant fire.

Israel has struck inside Syria on numerous occasions in the course of the country's civil war, often to prevent what it says are weapons shipments from reaching Hezbollah. It has rarely confirmed the strikes officially.

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