This week commenced with grave concerns as the “race” to Sirte commenced with the victors knowing they will secure a greater bargaining power to establish a National Accord Government. From the east, General Hafter mobilised his troops who headed towards the south of Sirte and mirrored from the west, Misrata forces pressed forward to establish themselves as the key saviour. The situation started to rebound as both sides met near the town of Zillah raising concerns of an all-out fight.
On Tuesday evening, warplanes from Misrata struck fighters loyal to Hafter who were guarding oil installations in the Zillah area, 300 kilometres south of Sirte. Hafter sent reinforcements that battled with fighters allied to Misrata and drove them out.
The UN envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, warned of civil war, saying on his Twitter account Thursday, “Libyans must not fight each other, they should jointly fight the common enemy,” referring to Daesh.
The moves on Sirte threatened to undermine Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj whose government elect is sponsored by the UN-brokered deal that requires Hafter’s removal as head of the military. But Sarraj has no real forces under his control as he appears to be aligning with Misrata to thwart Hafter. On Thursday, Serraj ordered the formation of a command operations room that would lead any Sirte operation, most of them army officers from Misrata.
As the Italian government continued to endorse the National Unity Government, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni stated that General Hafter should have a role in the transition as the stabilisation processes takes shape.
Within Tripoli, the reduction of incidents have continued since the arrival of the unity government. There was an exchange of gunfire at the central hospital at the start of the reporting period leaving 4 injured. The Maltese Prime minister visited along with a representive of the Tunisian government both declaring that their respective consulates will reopen soon within Tripoli.
To the east as hostilities developed on Thursday, Daesh suicide bombers hit three checkpoints manned by the Misrata militiamen around Abugrein, between their Libyan stronghold of Sirte and the city of Misrata killing eight and then seizing the area. The jihadist group said it had taken control of several villages in the area following attacks on checkpoints at al Bughlah, Abu Najim, Zamza, al Wushka, Buryat al Hassoun and Abugrein. Misrata forces reported 8 dead and 105 wounded after the attacks. Misrata warplanes responded with air strikes, as authorities put Misrata on full alert. Latter reports in the week have suggested that Misrata forces have regained control and ISIS militants have withdrawn back to Sirte. Meanwhile, Sirte received continued airstrikes throughout the week as the Misrata and LNA forces started to probe the city.
Further east in central Benghazi, supporters of General Hafter came under a barrage of mortars as they cheered the Sirte offensive killing 7 people and injuring over 20 including woman and children. Pockets of Daesh supports who remain in the city claimed responsibility.
The Libya National Army (LNA) claims that its forces have now taken full control of all of Jufra district south of Sirte, this included the Jufra airbase near Hun and that the oilfields in the area had been secured.
Derna has remained quiet this week as holding clearance/operations seem to be working.
In Tobruk, a Maltese-flagged oil tanker was blocked from loading oil at the Hariga terminal. Workers at the terminal had been instructed not to handle the tanker, forcing the tanker to leave. This is a tit for tat blockage part of a power struggle between Libya's rival administrations.
The South of Libya remained relatively quiet during the last reporting week with no incidents of note.
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