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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Southern Libya may become battleground between forces of competing governments

The Defense Ministry of the UN-brokered Libyan Government of National Accord(GNA) announced today that a new military operation titled Awaited Hope would fight forces loyal to the eastern commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

Spokesperson for the Ministry Mohammed al-Ghasrisaid the operation was aimed at eradicating the forces of Mohammed Ben Nayel, who is loyal to Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army of the east-based House of Representatives(HoR) government. Just four days ago, Ben Nayel militants attacked the Third Force, loyal to the GNA at the Tamnihint air base in Sabha.
Last Thursday, Misrata Political Bloc, a group of Misrata city MP├Ęs and politicians requested the Presdidency Council (PC) of the GNA to crush the operations of Haftar in the south. Haftar operations are often referred to as Operation Dignity, and they are meant to clear out all Islamist opponents of Haftar from Libya. The operation began in May of 2014. The Misrta group said that immediate action had become imperative. Preparations to send troops south were said to be in full swing.
Meanwhile, the Operations Room of the Presidential Council's air force said in a statement that last Wednesday their warplanes had responded to air attacks of Dignity Operation on the Third Force positions and personnel at Timnahent air base. The Operations Room said that fighter aircraft had targeted warplanes of the Dignity Operation that were at the Barak Al-Sahtea air base.
Colonel Mohammed Ganono reading from the statement said: "This is a message for all those who cherish messing with the fortunes of the Libyans or acting away from the legitimate Government of National Accord. The die is cast. Our air force will no longer tolerate such actions by Dignity Operation command and our personnel and warplanes will target any illegal movements across the entire country." Early Wednesday morning Dignity Operation fighter aircraft had bombed locations around the Tamniint airbase according to Third Force commander Jamal al-Treki. He confirmed that the group had engaged in heavy clashes with Ben Nayel's forces.
The commander of the DIgnity Operation in the region, Shareef Al-Awami, threatened to attack Misrata airbase if any more attacks were made on the Barak Al-Shatea air base. Al-Awami said: “We have the ability to intercept and down their L-39 jet fighters". The Brak Al-Sahti air base is about 60 kilometers north of Sabha a main city in southwestern Libya.
The radical group Benghazi Defense Brigades(BDB or SDB)) have decided that they will turn over the Jufra air base to central government forces creating a situation where there could be more clashes with Haftar forces. A tweet notes: "#Libya- #SDB statement on willingness to handover Jufrah Airbase to "General Staff of the Libyan Army" (#GNA-#Misrata)"
The prime minister of the eastern-based rival HoR government, Abdullah al-Thinni, has now rejected the view of international leaders, including the UN envoy Martin Kobler, that dialogue is the only way forward and there is no military solution. Al-Thinni insists that divisions in the country can only be resolved by military means. This is the position of Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar as well. An outright civil war is in danger of starting.


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