The "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) launched a surprise assault Monday (June 20th) near Manbij in northern Syria, killing residents of two villages it recaptured from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), AFP reported.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIL had dispatched a small group of fighters -- including one driving an explosives-laden car -- into villages south-east of its stronghold of Manbij.
The SDF, an Arab-Kurd opposition alliance, had captured the villages in recent weeks in its push towards Manbij.
"ISIL is trying to defend Manbij by sending fighters from outside the town to attack the SDF in these villages," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
ISIL executed local residents, he said, but there was no immediate toll.
The coalition carried out a barrage of airstrikes on Monday to defend the villages, Abdel Rahman said.
At least four SDF fighters were killed in the clashes and many more were wounded.
The SDF, with air support from the international coalition, encircled Manbij nearly 10 days ago.
But since then, they have been slowed by almost daily ISIL suicide bombings.
ISIL also is mounting a fierce defence of Tabqa, with a failed ISIL counterattack against regime fighters south-west of the city on Monday killing at least 14 of its fighters and six regime fighters.