By Sami Zaptia.
London, 17 June 2019:
Forces aligned with the Faiez Serraj internationally recognized Tripoli government claimed in a media briefing last week that they had achieved ‘‘strategic objectives’’ through operations on ‘‘more than one frontline to extend control and hunt down remnants of the supporters of the outlaw and war criminal Haftar’’.
The claim comes as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported last Tuesday that since the start of the Tripoli fighting on 4 April, 18,785 families, equating to about 93,925 individuals, have been displaced. Since 31 May alone, an additional 655 families/3,425 individuals have been displaced.
The Serraj-aligned forces, meanwhile, claimed that residential sites in the areas of Salah Al-Deen, Abu Sleem, Ain Zara and Tajura were hit by Hafter’s warplanes with rockets and airstrikes, which caused civilian casualties and considerable damage in properties.
The Serraj-aligned forces claimed that they had advanced and taken control of new sites at the disused Tripoli International Airport and at the Ramla roads, destroying two tanks and six armed vehicles, and arrested a number of Hafter supporters, after their colleagues had ran and left them wounded on the battlefield.
The Serraj aligned Air forces also claimed that during the last three days facilitated the advance of their forces by targeting sites of Hafter’s ‘‘foreign-backed criminal militias’’and carried out 14 combat missions, targeting positions and fleeing fighters.
On Thursday, the Serraj-aligned forces said that they had combed the area of Gweaa, near the disused Tripoli International Airport after they said they had received information about infiltrators. They claim they had arrested seven of Hafter’s forces with their weapons.
They claim that the aim of the arrested Hafter forces was to carry out assassinations along the coastal road. The search for other infiltrators is ongoing, they added.
The Serraj-aligned forces confirmed that one of their fighter jets had crashed on the morning 13 June near Misrata but insisted that the crash was as a result of a technical defect. This conflicts with LNA claims that it had shot the fighter jet down.
They reported that the pilot had died rather than eject himself in an attempt to land the crashing jet away from residential neighbourhoods or the public road.
Finally, the Serraj-aligned forces warned Haftar against exploiting Libya’s oil institutions and facilities as gathering sites for his forces and held him fully responsible for any sabotage or damage to the oil ports.
On the political front, Faiez Serraj and Federica Mogherini, the EU Foreign Policy High Representative held a telephone call last Thursday in which Serraj reiterated his welcome for the European position on Libya in the EU Foreign Ministers’ joint statement where they denounced the military attack on Tripoli, which compounds the risk of the terrorist threat in Libya and the region.
The Tripoli government reported that Serraj had said that the resistance to the Hafter attack on the capital was ‘‘continuing until it was defeated’’, stressing that there was no retreat from the goal of building a democratic civil state.
Serraj also renewed his call to the European Union to pressure the (Arab) countries supplying Hafter’s ‘‘aggressor militias’’ with arms and money to stop this support, which he said contributes to the threat to the lives of civilians and is in breach of the UN Security Council resolution banning arms supplies to Libya.
For her part, the Tripoli government reported, Mogherini said that European efforts are focused on a ceasefire and a return to the path of a political settlement, confirming its rejection of attacks on civilians, and the EU’s position that there is no military solution to the crisis in Libya.
Meanwhile, Ageela Saleh, the head of Libya’s internationally recognized parliament based in Tobruk, the House of Representatives (HoR), met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo last Thursday.
The HoR reported that Saleh expressed his ‘‘appreciation for Egypt’s stand alongside the Libyan people’’ while Sisi assured of Egypt’s consistent stance, which has not changed with the support of the Libyan National Army in its campaign to eliminate terrorist elements and organizations, and that the will of the Libyan people is the determined will, which must be respected, activated and enforced “to support the effective legality in Libya represented by the elected Libyan House of Representatives of the people’’.