After having been closed for 2 months due to the conflict, Tripoli's international airport is set to resume operations. Libya's (GNA) transport minister Milad Maatoug announced this past week (Oct 29) at a press conference with UN envoy Ghassan Salame that the airport would reopen, but not fully resume operations.
The airport has been targeted by LNA air strikes and artillery fire throughout the fighting renewed since April. A rocket attack on September 1 on the airport wounded 4 people, forcing Libyan authorities to divert flights to Misrata airport.
LNA forces, in response, accused the GNA of using Mitiga airport for military purposes, specifically launching Turkish attack drones from the site.
Fighting continues in Libya with heavy clashes reported between GNA and LNA forces around Tripoli. The stalemate that has developed around the capital has led both sides to seek increased foreign involvement, making it deadlier than before.
According to Al-Jazeera, the heads of both parties seem to rule out any sort of compromise thus far. Pro-GNA militias are demanding a no-fly zone be imposed by the United Nations. One GNA fighter was convinced that without foreign air support, Haftar would lose quickly.
Haftar has said in the past he is willing to come to a political solution with the Tripoli government, but only once the various militias based there, and who back the GNA, leave. GNA officials, on the other hand, demand they too seek dialogue but only once Haftar pulls his forces out of the area.
The various international powers are expected to convene a conference meant to end the fighting by the end of 2019, including persuading foreign powers Turkey, the UAE and Egypt to roll back their support for the two sides, help de-escalate as well as work to end human trafficking and resume oil supplies.
Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani of the eastern, Benghazi government decried Tripoli's allocation of oil revenues throughout the country, especially to the areas under the control of his government.
The internationally recognised Tripoli-based government, the GNA, controls the Central Bank and supports various "outlawed groups & militias" according to al-Thani, and he claims that he has had to resort to taking out loans in order to continue providing basic social services to Libyan citizens.
According to him, Tripoli has only allocated $146 million per month for public salaries, despite the fact that eastern Libya, currently under the de-facto control of his government backed by the LNA, contains the majority of Libya's oil infrastructure.
A representative for the GNA in Tripoli dismissed al-Thani's allegations outright, saying that the Benghazi government lacked any legitimacy. The Libyan National Oil Corporation noted that it remains neutral in the current ongoing conflict.
On the 14th September we received reports from our on-the-ground sources that there were explosions heard at Misrata International Airport, Libya. Following this, we turned to AQINTEL to supply us with ‘before and after’ satellite images of the Misrata Airport to get a visual understanding of the battle that occurred at the airport, what kind of damage was caused and what kind of munitions were used that could aid us in understanding more about the magnitude and source of the attack.
The satellite images taken of Misrata International Airport from the morning of 14th September 2019 show commercial airliners parked around hangers and some smaller buildings at the airport. See image 1 below:
The satellite images taken of Misrata International Airport towards the end of the day on the 14th September 2019 show the damage caused by fighting, see image 2 below.
Analysis of Image 2:
Analysis of image 2 shows there was a sophisticated attack launched against the GNA at the Misrata International Airport attack on 14th September 2019. Our on-the-ground sources reporting hearing “Russian shouting” from forces around the airport during the attack. These two indicators lead us to suspect the Wagner Group or Russian Special Forces recent deployment of personnel to support General Haftar’s LNA were involved this battle. They were possibly working with the LNA or maybe alone. While both Wagner Group and General Haftar have not officially confirmed their work together, images and reports like these seem to be the first indicating factors to help us clarify these facts.
The GNA, which is Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord and currently has support from the US and the EU (except for France), has been petitioning the UN, throughout the month of September 2019, to pass a resolution to condemn those who “are targeting civilian facilities in Libya”. Mitiga and Misrata International Airports were specifically referenced in the GNA’s petition to the UN. The satellite images and our on-the-ground sources show that the GNA are the ones endangering civilians by placing its military assets next to civilian airliners. All the while petitioning the international community to protect the areas by attempting to classifying them as ‘civilian’.
The US has been reported to be waning its support for the GNA, who’s forces are facing numerous alleged crimes against humanity. Coupling this with the GNA mixing civilian and military activities at Misrata’s International Airport will no doubt further strain relations between the GNA and the US. On the other hand, it is highly unlikely that the US will show support for Haftar and the LNA. This leads us to believe the US is searching for a possible alternate leader to support in Libya.
While this long Libyan war is messy and many times it is hard to decipher facts, especially due to the dangers of being on-the-ground in Libya, our local sources and ability to gain insights from satellite imagery can help illuminate an otherwise opaque battle. This battle, that has the US and EU countries supporting the GNA and the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Russians and French supporting the LNA is more about these countries vying for control over Libya’s rich natural resources, of which should ultimately be commercially beneficial only to the Libyan people and not to interested outsider parties.
Note: All satellite images are approved to use by any news publication as long as it is referenced to AQINTEL https://www.aqintel.net/ . Information that has been gleaned from our on-the-ground sources should be referenced to our organization’s twitter handle @LibyaNewsLive1 or our website: https://www.libyanewslive.com/
On Tuesday an order was allegedly issued to affect the transfer of 678 police officers and personnel from the Interim Government's Interior Ministry to LNA military forces. This comes a day after a statement by Haftar's spokesman Ahmed Al-Mismari, who said their forces will continue with the war in Tripoli and won't accept negotiations or political solutions.
Observers believe that this decision by the LNA commander and the recent military reinforcement in eastern Libya, including traffic policemen in Ajdabiya drafted into service, is an attempt to make up for the human loss since the start of Tripoli offensive which started in April of this year.
On Saturday a spokesman for Khalifa Haftar's forces ruled out a UN call to return to the negotiating table, saying a military solution is the best way to resolve the conflict.
"The battle (for Tripoli) is in its final phases," LNA spokesman General Ahmed al-Mesmari told a press conference in the United Arab Emirates. "When the guns speak, diplomacy goes silent. The time of going back to dialogue is over," he said. "The military solution is the best solution to spread security and reimpose the law."
Days earlier, al-Mismari had dismissed the internationally-recognised prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj, as powerless and negotiations as futile. “The man was unable to sign a single paper,” he said of Sarraj. “He would always give the excuse that he needed to hold consultations. We’ve exhausted all good offices.” Continuing on he said it wouldn’t be possible to overhaul key institutions without a Haftar victory.
“Now we need to reform people’s morals and correct sick minds and this needs a rifle and a prison,” he said of rivals in Tripoli. “But after a national unity government takes hold, and the state is set up, many matters will be brought up.”
The UN says neither side has a chance of winning and has been pushing for an international conference in September to cement a cease-fire followed by talks that would reform the country’s financial institutions, including the central bank.
Mismari’s comments reflect the difficulties the United Nations faces in bringing the sides to the table and ending a conflict that has drawn in regional and international powers vying to shape the future of the oil-rich country. Sarraj’s government has ruled out talks with Haftar.
The commander of the Sirte Protection Force (a GNA-affiliated militia), Al-Na'as Abdullah, declared a state of high alert after identifying a convoy of armed vehicles allegedly belonging to LNA forces coming from the east, in the area of Al-Rawagha, heading to an unknown destination.
Recently, the Sirte Protection force had continued to operate fixed and mobile patrols east and south of Sirte, attempting to demonstrate that the area extending from Abu Qrin to Sirte is under the control of the Central Military Region of the Government of National Accord.
LNA forces may be conducting a reconnaissance in force to demonstrate their ability to traverse the area unopposed, challenging GNA claims of control in the area outside of Sirte, or simply passing by on their way to support the offensive further west in Tripoli. This remains a developing story.
Chad's justice minister has said a "special criminal court" handed jail terms to 243 rebels who crossed from Libya in February, before their incursion was halted by French air raids.
Out of "267 people who were arrested, 12 were sentenced on Monday to 20 years in prison and 231 others to terms ranging from 10 to 15 years", Djimet Arabi told AFP news agency on Tuesday.
Twenty-four minors who had been detained were released, the minister said. The special court also handed down life sentences in absentia to nearly a dozen rebel leaders living outside Chad, including their chief Timan Erdimi, Arabi added.
The Union of Resistance Forces (UFR), an armed group opposed to Chadian President Idriss Deby, is based in the desert of southern Libya.
In February, UFR fighters crossed into northeastern Chad in a column of pick-up trucks and drove some 400km into Chadian territory before being halted by air raids from French fighter jets based near the Chadian capital, N'Djamena.
"The incursion of this armed column deep into Chadian territory was aimed at destabilising this country," the military of France, Chad's former colonial power, said in a statement at the time, adding that the attacks were carried out in response to a formal request for assistance by Chadian authorities.
The Chadian army moved in after the French intervention and later announced that it had captured more than 250 people.
Arabi said the special court had convened in Koro Toro, a prison located in the desert in the country's north, where proceedings began on August 20.
"The rebels were sentenced yesterday after a fair trial," he said.
Chad has suffered repeated coups and crises since it gained independence from France in 1960.
Deby has also faced several rebellions since seizing power in a military coup in 1990, while international observers have questioned the fairness of elections that have kept him in office for decades. Last year, he pushed through constitutional reforms that could keep him in office until 2033.
France sees Deby as key to a wider regional fight against armed groups and has based its 4,500-strong Operation Barkhane forces in N'djamena.
The eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) force said it had twice bombed the airport of Zuwara, a town west of Tripoli, saying it had targeted hangars used by Turkish drones.
The attacks are part of a campaign currently in its fifth month to try to take Tripoli held by the internationally recognised government. The LNA is commanded by Khalifa Haftar allied to a parallel government in the east.
The UN Libya mission (UNSMIL) said in a statement it had visited Zuwara airport and found no military infrastructure or assets.
“The Mission renews its condemnation of the attacks conducted by the LNA forces against Zuwara airport, which cause serious damage,” it said, adding that the runway had been damaged.
The LNA also flew late on Saturday several airstrikes against an airbase in the western city of Misrata, whose forces are helping to defend Tripoli, residents said.
“Three massive explosions could be heard,” said one of them.
The LNA could not be immediately reached for comment.
The LNA has resorted to increased airstrikes against Tripoli airport and other targets since its ground campaign has failed to make it beyond southern suburbs of the Libyan capital.
Turkey has supplied the Tripoli forces with drones and trucks to match military support by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates for the LNA, according to diplomats.
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) revealed the intention to turn the humanitarian truce between the UN-backed government and the rival east-based army into a permanent cease-fire.
"After the UNSMIL called upon the parties on Aug 8 to express their commitment to a humanitarian truce on the occasion of Eid al-Adha, the mission welcomes the positive response by the parties and the palpable reduction of violence in the Tripoli area," the mission said in a statement released on Wednesday.
However, there were still violations of the truce, which include use of heavy fire in civilian areas, the statement noted. The special representative of the UN secretary-general expressed the readiness of UNSMIL to transform what was accomplished in the period of truce into a permanent cease-fire, according to the statement.
Since early April, the government has been engaged in a deadly armed conflict against the army, which is trying to take over the capital Tripoli and overthrow the government.
The fighting so far has killed more than 1,000 people, injured more than 5,700 others, and forced over 120,000 to flee their homes, according to the World Health Organization