Thursday, June 8, 2017

Eastern commander Haftar bombs a number of sites in south central area of Libya

(May 25) In response to the Third Force associated with the Libyan Government of National Accord's(GNA) attack on the Brak Al-Shali air base, forces of Marshal Khalifa Haftar have been bombing a number of sites in the south.

The earlier attack was launched by the Third Force in alliance with others on the Al-Shati base which is 37 miles northwest of the Tamanhent base the headquarters of the Third Force. The mayor of Brak Al-Shati claimed that 95 bodies had been bought to the hospital there although the Libyan National Army claimed that as many as 141 people had been killed. The attackers did not try to hold the base. The attack was widely condemned with many accusations of war crimes including throats being slit. The Government of National Accord claimed that it had not ordered the attack and suspended its defense minister and also the head of the Third Guard.
It now appears that the Third Force has voluntarily left its headquarters at the Tamanhent base and it has been taken over by forces loyal to Haftar, the eastern commander: "Forces loyal to the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) posted videos and pictures showing them driving into Tamanhent air base, which had previously been controlled by the Third Force, early in the morning. Tamanhent appeared to be empty as LNA forces entered." This takeover extends the reach of Haftar's Libyan National Army into the central desert region. Tamanhet is about 20 miles northeast of the major southern city of Sabha. There are reports that the Third Force has also withdrawn from Sharara oil field.
In contrast to the Third Guard retreat, Haftar's air forces have carried out a series of air strikes in the Jufra region about 175 miles northeast of Sabha where GNA forces are still in control. The GNA condemned the strikes claiming they intimidated and injured innocent citizens in a region it claimed was neutral between the two rivals:"We call for an immediate end to this bombing in order to preserve civil peace and to prevent bloodshed." So while Haftar expands his reach using military might, the GNA has its forces retreat and uses a mild verbal onslaught as a counter-attack.
An article in the Libya Observer claims that the withdrawal from Tamanhent was aimed at reducing tensions in the south after the attack on the Brak Al-Shati airbase. The Third Force withdrew to the Al Jufra district according to local sources. A source from the Third Force said: “We decided to withdraw to save blood after Dignity Operation militias’ incitement of civilians to attack the Third Force.” Dignity Operation is the name of a military operation started back in May of 2014 to clear Libya of Islamist opponents of Haftar whom he consider terrorists. This includes many loyal to the GNA. Media outlets associated with the Dignity Operation posted a video of Mohamed Ben Nayal commander of Haftar's southern forces inside the base.
The Mayor of Al-Jufra Municipality, Emad Rasheed was angered at the Dignity Operation bombing campaign: “Dignity Operation jet fighters have continuously bombed the district indiscriminately, hitting civilian homes and warehouses, killing civilians and livestock. We have never built any military bases in our district and any buildings that are here are the ones we inherited from the previous regime, even those buildings are but unfinished camps that are not occupied by any forces. What is happening in Al-Jufra over the past days breaks all national and international laws, now instead of people struggling with their daily needs without cash, they are dealing with the destruction of a bombing campaign too.” Don't expect anything other than moral condemnation and pleas for Haftar to stop from the UN and international community.
There were bombing attacks by Haftar in other areas such as Hun as well. A tweet claims:" Protesters in Hun gather to call for a stop to air strikes and military operations. #Libya http://alwasat.ly/ar/news/libya/142912/ " Haftar has often claimed that there is a military solution to the political crisis and that he would eventually free Tripoli from militia he sees as opponents. Haftar has not accepted the GNA government or agreed to the terms of the GNA. Recent statements by a member of the House of Representatives whose armed forces Haftar commands, Ali Al-Gaydri claims only a military solution is possible counter to the opinion of the UN envoy Martin Kobler and many others: " We believe only in military institutions and military solutions for the current conflict." Al-Gaydi even said that it would rather use force and kill a million Libyans in order to see two million others living in luxury, repeating that he believed only in military institutions and military solutions to the current conflict.
In the past, Haftar has made equally radical statements as a recent tweet notes: "#Haftar: "we would rather have 6 thousands living w/ dignity, than have 6 million living without dignity", March 2014." GIven Haftar can represent himself as a champion against terrorism and the incompetence of his rival GNA with its Presidency Council, Haftar could soon gain the support of the international community and continue his military battles for a final solution to Libya's crisis.

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