By Sami Zaptia.
London, 28 July 2019:
The fighting between forces attacking and forces defending Tripoli escalated and expanded territorially over the weekend.
The air war extended to Jufra and Misrata, while fighting for territory around Tripoli intensified with ultimately no major gains or losses by either side.
The forces defending Tripoli, aligned to the Faiez Serraj-led Presidency Council and Government of National Accord, announced on Friday that they had carried out “several dawn air strikes” on the Al-Jufra Airbase located in Jufra, Central Libya.
The Jufra air base, as well as others, is used by the Khalifa-Hafter-led Libyan National Army (LNA) as a supply base for their attacks on the capital Tripoli,
The Tripoli forces accuse Hafter of also using the base as a “shelter for mercenaries brought in from some neighboring countries, and a springboard for foreign aircraft bombing civilians and vital facilities of interest to the Libyan people”.
They claimed to have “destroyed a hangar of drones belonging to an aggressor state (the usual code for the UAE or Egypt) , in addition to destroying a cargo plane (IIyushin II-76) that was used to transport ammunition and mercenaries to Libya”.
They also claimed to have “targeted a store of ammunition at Jufra airbase and a checkpoint on the Houn-Tripoli road and succeeded in achieving all its planned vital goals, after high-level intelligence and operational planning.”
They claimed that this is “the beginning of a new phase of operations, which has been intensively prepared in the last few days, planning for future phases in order to extend State authority over all the country’s land”.
They added that throughout July, their “forces were operating silently, moving positively, chasing the remnants of the defeated (Hafter) militias at Gaser Ben Ghashir, and shooting down two reconnaissance planes at the Airport Road”.
On the Swani frontline, they claimed to have “arrested eleven African mercenaries recruited by the war criminal Hafar for his aggression on the capital Tripoli”.
On the Ain Zara frontline, they claim they had “succeeded during the past week in defeating gunmen who had infiltrated into residential areas in Tripoli, destroying their vehicles and tanks, which were used to cover their attacks”.
On the al-Nahr frontline they claim they were able to seize military vehicles carrying anti-aircraft munitions in addition to destroying another vehicle.
They also claim that their Air Forces during the last period targeted supply lines, which were trying to cross into Tripoli and Gharian, and “defeated all its desperate attempts”.
In what they called “a qualitative operation” they also claimed to have arrested a terrorist cell that infiltrated the capital Tripoli. Initial investigations indicated that they had infiltrated with the help of Haftar’s militia for money, they added.
Hafter forces attack Misrata airbase
On the other hand, the pro Hafter forces claimed that they carried out air strikes on the Misrata Air Academy in retaliation for the Jufra air strike.
They claimed that the air strikes targeted “the source of Turkish airline departures of Turkish controlled military drones of the Tripoli GNA militias, which targeted a transportation plane allocated by the LNA to transport pilgrims from the Jufra area to Benina International Airport and there on to visit the Holy lands of Mecca”.
The LNA Air Force claimed that they had carried out “tens of raids” during which they “targeted more than 10 targets” selected with care and destroyed, including “an operation room, air defence and ammunition armory stored in military sites of the Misrata Air Academy base and Sirte base”.
The LNA said that its raids on Misrata revealed the existence of an “Italian military base”.
It said that the Italian authorities have been constantly denying the existence of any base in Misrata, and in Libya, while yesterday its Defence Ministry confirmed their stationing in Misrata and that no damage had been caused from LNA strikes to their Italian forces or the infrastructure used by its military units operating at the Misrata air base.
Italian media estimates 300 Italian troops to be stationed in Misrata.
Fighting on the ground
Meanwhile, in the fighting around Tripoli on the ground, the pro Hafter forces claim they had carried out “numerous attacks” on the Tripoli-defending forces in the Wadi Rabea and Airport Road areas.
At one stage they had claimed to have captured the Transport (Naqlia) barracks. But later on the Tripoli-defending forces claimed they had recaptured it.
Equally, yesterday, they had claimed to have cut off the main Tripoli to Misrata coastal road at Garabuli. But again this was not held in what they claimed was a strategic retreat.
Civilian areas hit
A school in the Hani district of Tripoli was hit by a shell yesterday causing some damage but no injuries or deaths.
A house was also hit by a shell in the central Dahra district of Tripoli causing infrastructural damage, but again there were no injuries or fatalities.
There were also reports of a shell falling on the El Badri housing district of Eastern Hadba.
Finally, an African worker was killed in the Granite/ Marble workshop in the Dalah Al-Deen district of south Tripoli. The migrant worker died when a shell fell on his living quarters.