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Friday, July 1, 2016

Forces loyal to GNA are preparing for a final assault on the Islamic State in Sirte

The Solid Structure operations forces loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord have made further gains and are preparing for a final assault on the remaining fighters of the Islamic State surrounded in the center of Sirte.

The Solid Structure forces, mostly militia from Misrata have managed to seize the IS radio station that broadcast IS propaganda. The radio station broadcast speeches by the IS head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. They have also gained control of a mosque. The media center for Solid Structure said that 18 of their forces had been killed in fighting on Tuesday and dozens of IS fighters were killed. Part of Sirte is the only territory that IS now controls in Libya. The offensive against IS was launched last month and ended up surrounding the remaining IS fighters in Sirte. However, they have had to consolidate their positions and fend off suicide attacks and snipers on buildings. The new offensive also gained control of the Electricity Company, Baher neighborhood and many parts of 700 neighborhood.
There have been heavy loses recently by the militia forces. On Tuesday alone, 18 fighters were killed and 60 more wounded. The Misrata hospital has not been able to cope with the casualties. Some planes carrying the wounded to Europe have been unable to land and there have been complaints about the treatment of the wounded in some countries. Casualty figures vary. Another recent article claims that on Tuesday 34 militia forces were killed and 100 injured. A tweet lists 34 killed and 45 injured: "34 killed + 45 injureid In #sirt battle today from GNA LNA." Another tweet claims: "Death toll of Sirte clashes has risen to 36 fighters from Misrata-led forces."Another tweet about the lack of help from the Presidential Council (PC) of the Government of National Accord (GNA) complains: "@KoblerSRSG and not shocked with 50 fell due to no support from your pc?" The reference is to Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG), who many feel has done little to help the Misrata militia in their offensive against the Islamic State. However their do seem to be a small number of special forces both from the UK and the US that have been helping the militia.
The militia forces said on Tuesday that they are preparing for a final assault on iS, after repelling a number of counter-attacks. In a statement the group said:"Despite apparent calm along the fronts, our intelligence network is in full swing in preparation for the decisive battle.(ISIS fighters) are besieged in a small area of Sirte and although they have sought to break out our forces have repelled all attempts.."
General Khalifa Haftar, who announced over three weeks ago that he was marching to liberate Sirte, has had not a single clash with IS forces while the Solid Structure forces advanced from the west and the Petroleum Facilities Guard(PFG) from the east. General Haftar does not recognize the GNA nor its forces and refuses to join a unified command with the Presidential Council in charge. He is also a foe of Ibrahim Jodhran who heads the PFG. Haftar has been busy attacking the Shura Council of Jihadists who were instrumental in driving IS from Derna and its surroundings. Haftar considers them Al Qaeda although they deny any connection to the group. Haftar is commander in chief of the Libyan National Army(LNA) of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) which also does not recognize the GNA.
The HoR is to be the legislature of the GNA according to the terms of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) but first the HoR must vote confidence in the GNA. There have been many meetings of the HoR with lack of a quorum and two disrupted with no votes. It is not clear when the HoR will even vote for the GNA since those who accept the GNA also demand that Haftar stay on as head of the armed forces of the GNA. The LPA makes the PC the head of the armed forces.

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