Plunged into chaos since the fall of the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya is torn apart today by a power struggle between Khalifa Haftar and the GNA, recognized by the UN.
The conflict has been exacerbated over the months by foreign armed interference, with in particular the United Arab Emirates supporting Marshal Haftar, and Turkey supporting the GNA.
Fighting is still taking place at the gates of the capital but also in other regions of western Libya.
Pro-GNA forces seized the two coastal towns of Sorman and Sabratha on Monday, 60 and 70 km west of Tripoli, halfway between the capital and Ras Jedir, on the border with Tunisia, respectively.
“Our forces have taken control of Sorman and Sabratha and are chasing fleeing terrorist (pro-Haftar) militias,” spokesman Mohamad Gnounou said in a brief statement.
On their Facebook page, the GNA forces published photos of their spoils of war: armored vehicles, Grad rocket launchers, tanks and armed vehicles.
– Six hours of fighting –
Sabratha and Sorman were controlled in particular by Salafist militias who had allied themselves with Marshal Haftar from the start of his offensive against Tripoli in April 2019.
The pro-Haftar did not react to the loss of the two cities, a new setback for their forces after the loss last summer of Gharyane, their rear base in western Libya.
Khalifa Haftar “thus lost the entire coast to the west,” analyst Jalal Harchaoui researcher at the Clingendael Institute in The Hague told AFP.
According to an on-site GNA commander, Mohamad al-Gammoudi, Sorman and Sabratha were resumed “after six hours of fighting with air cover”.
GNA forces also warned that their operations would be located in other small towns further south, under the control of pro-Haftar militias, such as al-Ajaylat, Regdaline or al-Jmeil.
The head of the GNA, Fayez al-Sarraj, confirmed the resumption of Sorman and Sabratha, and welcomed in a press release the “failure” the day before an offensive by Marshal Haftar against Abu Grein, located at mid path between the strategic cities of Sirte and Misrata, east of Tripoli.
Pro-Haftar forces captured Sirte in January and attempted to advance towards Misrata, 250 km further west.
Fighting has opposed the two camps since in the region of Abu Grein.
– “Fearsome” weapons –
On Sunday evening, the pro-Haftar announced that they had conquered Abu Grein, but the GNA forces quickly regained control of the city.
Harchaoui said Turkish-backed GNA forces have shown more “aggressiveness” in recent weeks “on multiple fronts, often with success.”
“High precision artillery on the ground, Turkish drones added to better coordination are proving to be formidable” and “are lacking in the Haftar coalition supported by the United Arab Emirates,” added Mr. Harchaoui.
The GNA forces seem to have gained the upper hand at air level in particular, Turkish drones systematically targeting the supply lines of pro-Haftar.
The conflict has left hundreds dead and more than 200,000 displaced so far.
Mediation efforts undertaken so far by the United Nations have failed and the envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salamé, resigned in early March.
The humanitarian situation is worsening as the country must fight the pandemic of the new coronavirus. Libya has confirmed 24 cases of contamination, including one death.
More than two million Libyans have also suffered major water and electricity cuts in the capital Tripoli and its surroundings for the past week, the UN accusing armed groups on Saturday and denouncing a “weapon of war”.