TAL ABIAD, Syria, June 16 (UPI) -- Kurdish forces seized a town in northern Syria that marked a major supply point for Islamic State forces, according to reports.
Tell Abiad, which lies about 60 miles north of the de-facto IS capital of Raqqa, Syria, fell to Kurdish People's Protection Units, also known as the YPG, on Tuesday.
Backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and Arab allies, the YPG took full control of the city as IS forces retreated toward villages to the southwest, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
SOHR reports the Kurds killed up to 40 IS fighters as they fled into the village of Essa. YPG forces are being cautious before moving into areas southwest of Tell Abiad due to a large number of explosive devices left behind by the Sunni extremists.
The loss of Tell Abiad deprives IS forces of a supply route for weapons and foreign fighters flowing in from Turkey.
On Saturday and Sunday the Kurds captured a string of villages in the countryside north of Raqqa, and on Sunday IS fighters blew up two bridges south of Tell Abiad in order to slow the YPG advance, according to SOHR. Most IS units had largely withdrawn from the town, leaving about 150 who said at the time that they would retreat if not reinforced.
On Sunday the YPG reportedly besieged another small force of IS fighters in the town of Suluk, on the road southeast from Tell Abiad. A source informed SOHR that, through intercepted wireless communications, a commander among the trapped extremists was recorded warning a possible IS relief force not to attempt a rescue because of the danger posed by coalition airstrikes.
On Monday the YPG was reportedly sending reinforcements to secure the road south to Raqqa.
The BBC quoted Brett McGurk, the U.S. deputy special presidential envoy for the international coalition against IS, as saying the Kurds were "really giving a beating" to IS forces.
The fighting in Tell Abiad, however, reportedly forced up to 16,000 refugees to flee into neighboring Turkey. Estimates put the number of Syrian refugees since the start of the war at about 4 million.
According to SOHR, a group of Syrian rebel factions on Monday released a statement accusing the YPG of "a campaign of ethnic and sectarian cleansing" against Sunni Arabs and Turkmen in Tell Abiad and the countryside west of the city in Hassakeh province, "under U.S.-led coalition air cover which participate[s] in shelling to terrorize the civilians and push them to leave their villages."
The statement went on to argue for "the territorial unity of Syria," saying the "Syrian people will stand against any project for division" and calling for the Kurds "to align with the revolution and its concepts."
The YPG shot back with its own statement, saying the rebels' claims were "totally rejected and fabricated."
"The holders of these stories and scenarios want to achieve what IS could not achieve in spreading toxins of discord among the components of our people," the statement read.
Last week a 36-year-old American man was reported killed fighting alongside YPG forces against IS militants near Kobani, about 40 miles northwest of Tell Abiad.
Kurdish forces captured the town from IS forces in January after months of heavy fighting. The capture of Tell Abiad now allows the Kurds to link with forces in the west, at Kobani, and to the east, toward the border with Iraq.
The Kurdish gains come after last month's IS advances farther south at the ruins of Palmyra.
Earlier this month, SOHR estimated that more than 320,000 people have been killed in the Syrian Civil War since 2011.