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Libya: Haftar forces announce capture of large parts of Sirte

The forces of Libya’s renegade general Khalifa Haftar said they have entered Sirte, taking control of large parts of the coastal city. Khaled al-Mahjoub, a spokesman of Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), said the fighters captured “all the districts surrounding the city”, including al-Qardabiya airbase, before moving towards the city centre. More: Libyan armed groups…

Libya: Haftar forces announce capture of large parts of Sirte

The forces of Libya’s renegade general Khalifa Haftar said they have entered Sirte, taking control of large parts of the coastal city.
Khaled al-Mahjoub, a spokesman of Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), said the fighters captured “all the districts surrounding the city”, including al-Qardabiya airbase, before moving towards the city centre.
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However, Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) rejected the information in a statement, referring to it as “rumours claiming gains of militias and mercenaries of war criminal Haftar”.
GNA said the government forces repelled LNA’s attack, destroying two armed vehicles near the east of Sirte.
“The situation inside Sirte is completely under control, and the clashes that took place on the eve of this day took place outside the city,” the government said.
Counter narrative
Earlier on Monday, LNA sources said the takeover came after forces from the city of Misrata, a key source of military power for GNA, retreated from Sirte.
A resident in Sirte city centre told Reuters News Agency by phone that they can see “convoys of LNA inside Sirte city … they control large parts of the city now. We also hear gunfire”.
Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed, reporting from the capital Tripoli, said that, according to the military sources in Sirte, “Haftar’s forces took control of several parts of the city, including the port and the city centre along with the military camps in the south of the city.”

“The city is very strategic because it is very close to the oil fields and oil ports in central Libya and the coast,” he said.
“We are also getting news from the military sources in Misrata that they are sending troops to Sirte to repel the attacks of Haftar’s forces.”
Capturing Sirte would be an important gain for Haftar, who since April has been waging a military offensive on Tripoli which is home to the GNA.
Sirte lies in the centre of Libya’s Mediterranean coast, and has been controlled by GNA-aligned forces since they ejected the ISIL (ISIS) armed group from the city with the help of US air raids in late 2016.
Turkish forces
The LNA advance comes as Turkey is deploying military advisors and experts to Libya to help shore up the GNA, part of a trend of rising international involvement in Libya’s conflict.
Haftar’s LNA has received material and military support from countries including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Jordan and Egypt, according to UN experts and diplomats.
In recent weeks, there has been an escalation of fighting, shelling and air raids around Tripoli.
On Saturday evening, a military college in the capital was hit, killing at least 30 people, a day after the only functioning airport in Tripoli faced its latest closure due to shelling and rocket fire.
Sirte, the birthplace of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, was taken over by ISIL in early 2015, becoming the group’s most important base outside the Middle East.
The city is just to the west of Libya’s oil crescent, a strip of coastline along which several key oil export terminals are located. Haftar’s forces seized the oil ports in 2016. 

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Haftar rejects GNA’s call for Libya ceasefire |NationalTribune.com

Renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces have dismissed a ceasefire announcement by Libya’s internationally recognised government as a “marketing” stunt. Ahmed Mismari, spokesman for Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), said on Sunday rival forces from the war-torn country’s west were mobilising around front lines in the centre of the country. In a media briefing, he…

Haftar rejects GNA’s call for Libya ceasefire |NationalTribune.com

Renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces have dismissed a ceasefire announcement by Libya’s internationally recognised government as a “marketing” stunt.
Ahmed Mismari, spokesman for Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), said on Sunday rival forces from the war-torn country’s west were mobilising around front lines in the centre of the country.
In a media briefing, he said the eastern-based forces were ready to respond to any attempted attack on its positions around the coastal city of Sirte and Jufra, further inland.
Mismari’s comments were the first by the LNA after the announcement on Friday of a ceasefire and a call for the resumption of oil production by the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.
“The initiative that al-Sarraj signed is for media marketing,” Mismari said. “There is a military build-up and the transfer of equipment to target our forces in Sirte,” he added.
“If al-Sarraj wanted a ceasefire, he would have drawn his forces back, not advanced towards our units in Sirte.”
Mismari made no reference to a parallel ceasefire call also issued on Friday by the head of Libya’s eastern-based parliament, Aguila Saleh. Saleh has gained influence compared with Haftar since Turkish military support for the GNA forced the LNA to retreat from a 14-month offensive on Tripoli in June.
Al Jazeera’s Malik Traina, reporting from Misrata, said: “Previously in any negotiations or any peace talks in Libya, Haftar was a very significant member and very involved in these kinds of talks – and he’s feeling sidelined now.”
Traina noted this was not the first time Haftar had rejected a ceasefire agreement. In January, Turkey and Russia also tried to support a truce that was signed by the GNA in Moscow, but not by Haftar.
“If Haftar’s foreign backers stop supporting him, does this mean that the GNA will be able to make advances? Does this mean that Saleh and al-Sarraj will be able to come to a peaceful agreement and bring about a lasting peace in Libya? That remains to be seen,” Traina said.

 Meanwhile on Saturday, Libya’s High Council of State, an advisory body to the GNA, vehemently rejected any dialogue with Haftar.
In a statement, it underlined the need to seriously work to end the “state of insurgency” in the country through an immediate ceasefire and the need to enable the government to take control over all of Libyan soil.
“Any dialogue or agreement should be under the Libyan political agreement, which regulated the mechanism of dialogue to be only between elected bodies,” it added.
With Haftar loyalists blocking oil facilities in the country in recent months, the council also called for resuming the production and export of oil – Libya’s main source of income – and holding those responsible for the closure of the facilities accountable.
Libya splintered into rival political and armed groupings after the uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
The oil-rich country remains deeply divided between factions based in the east and west that back rival governments and parliaments.
The conflict has become an arena for regional rivalries, with Haftar being supported by Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates and the GNA having the backing of Turkey and Qatar.
There has been little fighting since June. In the past, both sides have accused each other of quickly violating truces and using them to rearm.
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Erdogan: Haftar, his backers biggest obstacle to peace in Libya |NationalTribune.com

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged increased support for Libya’s internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) fighting Khalifa Haftar’s forces, calling the renegade military commander and his allies the biggest obstacle to peace in the war-torn country. Speaking at a joint news conference with GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj in Ankara, Erdogan said on Thursday…

Erdogan: Haftar, his backers biggest obstacle to peace in Libya |NationalTribune.com

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged increased support for Libya’s internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) fighting Khalifa Haftar’s forces, calling the renegade military commander and his allies the biggest obstacle to peace in the war-torn country.
Speaking at a joint news conference with GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj in Ankara, Erdogan said on Thursday history would judge those who caused “bloodshed and tears” in Libya by supporting Haftar, whom he described as a “putschist”.
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Erdogan also said a solution to the crisis in Libya can only be achieved politically and through efforts under the auspices of the United Nations.
Turkey and the GNA signed in November a military cooperation pact alongside a maritime demarcation deal, which gives Ankara oil exploration rights in the Mediterranean Sea that Greece and other countries reject.

The Turkish support has been crucial in the GNA’s efforts to push back Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), which launched an offensive in April last year to seize Tripoli. On Thursday, after a string of recent military gains, the GNA said it had captured all areas surrounding the Tripoli city administrative area.
Ankara has sent equipment and military personnel to Tripoli following the signing of the agreements and has urged Haftar’s backers to end their support of his eastern-based forces. The LNA has been backed by the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt.
‘Historic stance’
For his part, al-Sarraj thanked Turkey for “its historic and brave stance” in Libya and said the GNA would continue its struggle until Haftar was eliminated.
The latest advance of the GNA around Tripoli is expected to hasten steps towards a potential truce.

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On Monday, the UN said both sides had agreed to resume ceasefire talks, warning that weapons and fighters being flown into Libya in defiance of an embargo threatened a big new escalation.
Several peacemaking efforts in Libya have collapsed or been stalled since clashes began in 2014.
In a flurry of diplomacy, Serraj’s deputy was in Moscow and Haftar was in Egypt this week.
An increased presence in Libya would give Turkey strategic positioning near Egypt, with which ties are strained.
Tensions in Mediterranean 
In the news conference, Erdogan also said Turkey and Libya would advance exploration and drilling for oil in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Libya’s GNA says it regained full control of the capital, Tripoli

If this Ankara goes ahead with the move, Libya will also serve as another foothold for Turkey in the Mediterranean, where Turkey has been at odds with several neighbouring states.
Greece and Cyprus called last year’s maritime deal with Serraj illegal, an accusation Ankara denied.
Greece says Ankara’s maritime deal infringes on Crete’s continental shelf. Turkey – which has also been criticised by Israel and the European Union – says the deal abides by international law and rejects the notion islands can have such shelves.
Turkey previously said it could begin exploration and drilling in the eastern Mediterranean under the GNA deal within three or four months.
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Haftar dismisses UN Libya unity deal as ‘thing of the past’

Libya’s eastern-based renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar has declared a landmark 2015 United Nations-brokered agreement to unite the country “a thing of the past”, and pledged his authorities would move towards creating a new government. “The political agreement destroyed the country. We will work to create the conditions for building permanent civic institutions, he said…

Haftar dismisses UN Libya unity deal as ‘thing of the past’

Libya’s eastern-based renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar has declared a landmark 2015 United Nations-brokered agreement to unite the country “a thing of the past”, and pledged his authorities would move towards creating a new government.
“The political agreement destroyed the country. We will work to create the conditions for building permanent civic institutions, he said in a televised speech on Monday. 
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Haftar did not make clear whether an elected parliament in the country’s east – under whose jurisdiction his forces nominally fall – backed his move, or what its future role would be.    
In April 2019, Haftar launched a military campaign to wrest control of the capital, Tripoli, but the offensive has largely been stalled by forces loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA). 
A counteroffensive by GNA-aligned troops in late March resulted in Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) being expelled from several key western cities.
Haftar receives support from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia. The GNA is backed by Turkey.
Reporting from Tripoli, Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed said that Haftar’s forces have intensified their attacks on the outskirts of the capital since the defeats in western Libya. He said they continued to shell residential areas in the southern Tripoli on Monday.
“Since early morning, we have been hearing sounds of heavy explosions. Military sources with the GNA say Haftar’s forces have been shelling several areas in southern Tripoli indiscriminately.
“In many cases, random rockets landed in residential areas. Today, a woman was killed along with one of her sons, while three of her other children were injured in a random rocket attack launched by Haftar’s forces.”
Haftar had in a speech last week called on Libyans in territory under his control to hold demonstrations and give him a mandate to rule.
Despite a curfew imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, crowds thronged the streets of Benghazi and chanted slogans against the rival Tripoli administration. 
The UN set up the Tripoli-based government in 2015 following the emergence of the two rival centres of power.
The agreement, frequently condemned by Haftar and his supporters, bestows international legitimacy on the GNA under the leadership of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.
It also acknowledges the House of Representatives based in Tobruk as the country’s official legislature and grants consultative powers to the previous parliament based in Tripoli.
“Haftar has once more exposed his authoritarian intentions to the world,” Mohammed Ali Abdallah, an adviser to the GNA, said in a statement.
“He no longer seeks to conceal his contempt for a political solution and democracy in Libya. His statement tonight is the final, desperate act of a defeated man.”
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