Libyan forces aligned with Tripoli gov't capture key air base

Reuters/Cairo* Watiya air base was strategic foothold for eastern forcesForces aligned with Libya's internationally recognised government took control of an air base south-west of Tripoli on Monday after a sustained assault, in what could be their most significant advance for nearly a year.Watiya air base, 125 km from the capital, has been an important strategic foothold for forces loyal to eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar, who launched an offensive to capture Tripoli in April 2019.The campaign sharply escalated a long-running conflict between factions based in eastern and western Libya and caused a surge in military intervention by foreign powers.Forces aligned with the Government of National Accord (GNA) had taken full control of Watiya, Osama Juweili, a top military commander, was quoted as saying by official media early on Monday.The GNA posted footage posted on social media appearing to show its forces driving down runways at the base unhindered. The forces also posted a picture of what they said was a captured Russian-made Pantsir air defence system mounted on a truck at the base, as well as an operating manual in Arabic.A separate video post showed the purported destruction of a another LNA-held Pantsir from the air as it was being transported by road in the early hours of Monday.GNA forces said was the third they had hit in two days. The video could not be independently verified and the LNA has in recent days denied at least one other GNA claim it had destroyed a Pantsir.There was no immediate comment from Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) on the loss of Watiya, but LNA military sources confirmed that they had withdrawn after the base had come under intensive bombardment.The advance comes after GNA forces pushed back against their rivals in recent weeks with increased support from Turkey, capturing towns on the coast west of Tripoli last month.Haftar's LNA and its allies still control eastern and southern Libya, including most of the country's oil facilities, which they have been blockading since January. They also hold Sirte, a city at the centrepoint of Libya's Mediterranean coastline, which they overran at the start of the year.The capture of Watiya will further boost morale among GNA forces that were on the back foot late last year, and GNA Prime Minister Fayez Serraj signalled they would try to build on the advance. "Today's victory does not constitute the end of the battle but brings us closer than any time before to the bigger victory, the liberation of all towns and regions and bases," he said in a statement.The LNA, which is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Russia, has been unable to make significant progress from the outskirts of Tripoli since early on in its campaign.It lost Gharyan, its main forward base south of Tripoli, in its biggest reversal to date in June 2019, but continues to control Tarhouna, southeast of the capital.International efforts led by the United Nations to broker a ceasefire and negotiate a political settlement in Libya have so far come to little, as foreign powers have flouted an arms embargo to send in more weapons and operate drones.About half of the 400,000 people who have fled their homes since Libya's uprising in 2011 were displaced since the start of Haftar's offensive last year, according to UN estimates.

Source:Libya Today

May 18, 2020 13:41 UTC

LNA loses Watiyah's Oqba bin Nafea Airbase to militias western Libya

Members of Libyan National Accord Government (GNA) militias ride in military vehicles on the outskirts of Tripoli, Libya April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Hani AmaraCAIRO – 18 May 2020: Tripoli militias took over Oqba Bin Nafea Airbase located in Al Watiyah area western Libya from the Libyan National Army (LNA) on Monday, according to Russia Today that citing Sky News.In April, LNA Spokesperson Ahmed al-Mesmary stated that the militias had been attempting to take over the airbase as it can be the substitute of Mitiga Airbase if taken over by the Libyan Armed Forces that lie few kilometers from it.In the same month, the LNA downed 60 Turkish drones piloted from Mitiga Airbase. In December, the Government of National Accord (GNA) and Turkey signed two MoUs on defense and gas drilling in the Mediterranean.As a consequence, Turkey brought into Libya thousands of Syrian mercenaries to fight in the ranks of militias protecting the Tripoli-based GNA, which is an interim non-elected government that is recognized by the United Nations.Turkey also brought Turkish military experts and officers to command the operations rooms of militias, which have been controlling only Tripoli and Misrata since the LNA restored Sirte in January.Fighting has been ongoing as the LNA has been encircling both cities and advancing in their suburbs while militias have been targeting its concentrations.The LNA destroyed in April a number of vehicles and equipment in Assa district as militias had been mobilizing to enter Al Watiyah district.On Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that Turkey had transported into Libya until present 9,000 Syrian mercenaries, and that a large portion of them were receiving training on Turkish territories. Of those, 298 were killed in battles, including 17 minors.On May 6, the LNA declared the launch of Ababil Birds operation without any mention of details. That is in response to the crimes committed against the Libyan people, and forfeiture of the country's sovereignty by bringing in Syrian mercenaries.

Source:Libya Today

May 18, 2020 12:56 UTC

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