Libyan government launches operation to capture major Haftar airbase

Libyan government launches operation to capture major Haftar airbase
The Libyan government has launched an operation to capture the Al-Watiya Airbase, southwest of Tripoli, a major hub for forces loyal to rogue General Khalifa Haftar.
2 min read
05 May, 2020
GNA fighters have advanced against Haftar's forces recently [AFP]

Forces loyal to the UN-recognised Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) launched an operation early on Tuesday morning to capture the Al-Watiya Airbase southwest of Tripoli from rogue General Khalifa Haftar’s troops.

A military source in the GNA, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that heavy artillery strikes targeting the huge airbase, which lies 140 kilometres southwest of Tripoli, had paved the way for GNA ground forces to advance.

There were reports on social media on Tuesday that Usama Emsek, the head of Haftar's 134th Infantry Brigade which is tasked with defending the Watiya Base, had been killed in the clashes.

Read also: Is Libya on the road to de facto partition?

The anonymous source said that clashes were ongoing near the base, a major operations' hub for Haftar’s forces which played a key role in the rogue general’s 2019 assault on Tripoli. Haftar's assault on the Libyan capital killed more than 1,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more.

The situation at the base remained unclear on Tuesday afternoon, with some reports saying that Haftar forces were fleeing the GNA advance.

The Arabic website of the Al-Jazeera reported that GNA airstrikes on the Al-Watiya base had destroyed five military vehicles belonging to Haftar's forces, who were firing mortars at GNA positions in an attempt to stop their advance.

The GNA has recently scored important victories against Haftar’s self-styled "Libyan National Army", recapturing several cities in western Libya and encircling the city of Tarhouna, Haftar’s main base in the region, after receiving military support from Turkey.

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a televised speech that "we will receive good news from Libya soon, God willing".

"Libya's security, safety and prosperity of its people is the key to stability in the entire North African and Mediterranean region," he added.

Haftar’s forces have received support from Russia, the UAE, and Egypt.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay connected