Libya's GNA takes back more of southern Tripoli from Hifter

The Government of National Accord says it captured a string of towns from military strongman Khalifa Hifter this week.

al-monitor A damaged military aircraft is seen after fighters loyal to Libya's internationally recognized government took control of al-Watiya air base, southwest of Tripoli, Libya, May 18, 2020.  Photo by REUTERS/Hazem Ahmed.

May 22, 2020

Khalifa Hifter’s self-styled Libyan National Army lost more ground today to the country’s internationally recognized government, which reclaimed parts of southern Tripoli from the military strongman. 

The Government of National Accord (GNA) said it had retaken several towns in recent days, including the town of Esabia on Thursday, according to Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency. 

Spokesman Mustafa al-Mujie told the outlet that the Government of National Accord was now preparing an assault on the city of Mizdah, some 111 miles from the capital.  

Hifter’s eastern-based army, although withdrawing from parts of southern Tripoli, announced it destroyed nearly 20 military vehicles and four Turkish-made government drones.

The oil-rich country has been embroiled in conflict since the ousting of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, with rival administrations now controlling opposite ends of the country. In April 2019, the Libyan National Army launched a campaign to take Tripoli from the Government of National Accord. 

In recent weeks, the opposition army has suffered a series of setbacks at the hands of pro-Government of National Accord forces, including the loss of two towns and a key air base. 

On Thursday night, Libyans took to the streets of downtown Tripoli to watch as forces loyal to the Government of National Accord paraded a Russian-made missile defense system they recently captured from Hifter’s army at the al-Watiya airfield. 

The foreign ministers of Turkey, which backs the Government of National Accord, and Russia, which supports Hifter, called for a nationwide cease-fire and for the players to return to the UN-led peace process. 

This week, the UN’s acting Libya envoy warned the conflict will escalate as massive amounts of weaponry, equipment and fighters continue pouring into the country. 

“The only conclusion that we can draw is that this war will intensify, broaden and deepen,” Stephanie Williams told the UN Security Council.