new success of pro-government forces ~ #REUTERS:
In April 2019, the forces of Marshal Haftar, a strong man from the East, launched an offensive to seize the capital Tripoli, where the Government of National Union (GNA) sits, in the midst of a power struggle in this country tanker plunged into chaos since the fall of the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Over the months, foreign interference has exacerbated the conflict, with the United Arab Emirates and Russia supporting the Haftar camp, and Turkey that of the GNA.
With increasing Turkish support, a few weeks ago the pro-GNA took major coastal towns west of Tripoli, before surrounding the Al-Watiya air base, 140 km away southwest of Tripoli.
On Monday, Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of the GNA, announced in a press release that the base had been taken after several weeks of siege. “With pride and honor, we declare the release of the Al-Watiya base from the grip of criminal militias and terrorist mercenaries (pro-Haftar),” he proclaimed.
The pro-Haftar have controlled this base since 2014. And until a few months ago, they took off their planes from the base to bombard the positions of their rivals, before they lost all of their destroyed aircraft in the conflict. But they continued to use it as a base.
Marshal Haftar’s troops did not immediately react to the loss of the base.
– “Definitive annihilation” –
“Today’s success is not the end of the battle but it brings us closer than ever to the great victory, in which all regions will be liberated, and to the definitive annihilation of the hegemonic and tyrannical project which threatens the Libyans’ expectations of a civil and democratic state, “said Sarraj.
Thanks in particular to the drones provided by the Turkish ally, the pro-GNA have intensified the raids against their rivals in recent weeks, targeting their supply lines around the Al-Watiya base and the town of Tarhouna, now the last pro-Haftar rear base in western Libya, located some 80 km south-east of Tripoli.
According to the GNA forces spokesman, Mohamad Gnounou, three Russian-made “Pantsir” air defense missile systems that were to be deployed at Al-Watiya have been destroyed in the past 24 hours. These systems were supplied to Marshal Haftar by his main “sponsor”, the United Arab Emirates, accused the GNA.
The attack on the base was launched at dawn under aerial cover, said GNA commander Mohamad Gammoudi. Al-Watiya was “surrounded on three sides. We did not find a big resistance. Some armored vehicles tried to delay our advance, in order to secure the withdrawal of what remained of the militias of Haftar”.
– “Impossible to win” war –
According to Wolfram Lacher, a researcher at the German Institute for International Politics and Security (SWP), “Haftar’s forces have withdrawn from Al-Watiya base, their last anchor in the coastal plain (in the “west of the country). This frees up GNA forces from western cities to deploy to the front lines south of Tripoli.”
“It also reinforces the feeling among everyone, except those who truly believe in Haftar, that his war is impossible to win,” he added on his Twitter account.
The Haftar camp especially fears that the base will be used by Turkey to deploy troops or planes for the benefit of the GNA.
Marshal Haftar controls, in addition to the east of the country, a part of the south of the territory, as well as most of the oil fields and terminals blocked by his forces since the beginning of 2020. He is supported locally by the tribes of Cyrenaica (eastern part ).
The GNA controls almost all of the west, including the capital. It is locally supported by armed groups from the west, mainly those from the city of Misrata.
Since the start of the conflict in April 2019, violence has left hundreds of people dead and forced some 200,000 people to flee.