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Friday, February 28, 2020

Libya’s Haftar forces push towards Misrata in the West

Eastern Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar sought on Sunday to open a new front by moving forces towards the city of Misrata, which is allied to the country’s internationally recognised government, officials and residents said.

In another sign that a shaky truce was faltering, Tripoli’s Mitiga further to the west airport was hit by two rockets, which wounded two civilians and damaged the tarmac and buildings, the U.N. mission to Libya said.

It did not blame anyone for the strike, the second within days. The airport has been used to launch Turkish-supplied combat drones to counter unmanned aircraft used by Haftar’s Libyan National Army and provided by the United Arab Emirates.

The increase in fighting comes a week after the UAE, Egypt, Russia, which back Haftar, and Turkey, which backs the government in Tripoli, agreed with western powers at a summit in Berlin to push for a lasting ceasefire and uphold an arms embargo.

Despite the peace efforts, the LNA has now moved from the central city of Sirte towards Misrata. Fighting between the LNA and forces from Misrata was centred on the town of Abugrain, 120 km east of Misrata itself, both sides confirmed.

Two LNA fighters were killed and eight wounded, an LNA source said, adding that his forces later retreated taking some prisoners.

“Battles are raging on all front lines,” LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari told reporters in the eastern city of Benghazi, blaming Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who has been sending troops to defend Tripoli.

Haftar launched an offensive on Tripoli in April and has made small gains with the help of Russian and African mercenaries.

Erdogan said the Libyan general, who abandoned talks on a ceasefire in Moscow this month and blockaded oilfields during the Berlin summit, cannot be trusted.

Speaking during a visit to Algeria, Erdogan said Libya “should not be allowed to turn into a playground for terrorist organisations and warlords”.

Before leaving for Algeria, Erdogan said Haftar’s forces had repeatedly violated the ceasefire. “He’s continuing attacks with all his resources. However, he will not be successful here.”

Libya has had no stable central authority since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. It has had two rival governments, in the east and the west, for more than five years.

In Berlin, foreign powers agreed to form a special committee made up of five military officials from each side to shore up the shaky truce. They are due to meet for the first time this week in Geneva.

The U.N. mission in Libya said on Saturday that numerous cargo flights bringing weapons, trucks and fighters from countries that took part in the summit have been landing in both western and eastern Libya.

SourceReuters

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