On Wednesday (Jan 22), Tripoli's Mitiga Airport reopened and resumed flights, after having been shut down earlier that day due to shelling and rocket attacks. The attacks, attributed to Haftar's LNA forces, were yet another in a string of violations of the shaky ceasefire agreed upon in Moscow last week and backed by the international summit in Berlin on Sunday.
There were no reports of damage or casualties as a result of the rocket fire. Haftar and the LNA forces have been trying to take Tripoli since beginning a renewed offensive in April of 2019.
LNA sources said they were targeting "Turkish drones" being stored and launched from within Mitiga airport. The GNA denied this. This has not been the first time Mitiga airport has come under LNA fire and had to shut down, for similar reasons.
Despite the renewed efforts at a ceasefire, the Turkish-GNA military pact could see an increased effort by Turkey to send arms and troops, including Syrian militias, to assist the GNA, which could invite further LNA attacks on Tripoli's only functioning airport.
Khalifa Haftar, head of the LNA forces, left Moscow today without signing a on to a tentative ceasefire agreement. The initial cessation of hostilities, the first in months, was initiated last week by Russia and Turkey, who back the opposing sides in the Libyan conflict.
Talks began Monday and went into the evening. Fayez al-Sarraj, the Tripoli-based GNA prime minister, signed the initial agreement. However Haftar, who heads the LNA, asked until the morning to consider the terms. He left early Tuesday morning without signing, according to Russia's foreign ministry.
Haftar was quoted as as saying that "the draft ignores many of the Libyan army's demands". However, Russian FM Lavrov noted that Haftar viewed the ceasefire draft document "positively" and that some "progress" was made.
The next phase is the Berlin peace summit, scheduled to take place this Sunday. This is a part of the UN-led efforts to initiate a political process that has been postponed several times.
The talks are set to take place as Haftar's offensive on Tripoli has stalled on the southern outskirts, and as the LNA recently took control of the strategic coastal city of Sirte.
Ceasefire talks hosted by Moscow today (Monday) failed to reach a breakthrough so far, according to Al Jazeera. GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj signed a draft agreement. However rival Khalifa Haftar, who commands the LNA forces, requested additional time to review the document.
According to Russian foreign minister Lavrov, Haftar "has a positive view... and asked for extra time until the next morning to decide." Lavrov hopes "they will make a positive decision."
Turkish president Erdogan, who partnered with Putin to advance the ceasefire talks, despite that they support opposing sides in the conflict, said he was working to push the sides to a ceasefire. Speaking together with Italian prime minister Conte at a meeting in Ankara, Erdogan informed he would attend the long-awaited Berlin Summit this Sunday together with Conte and Putin to discuss Libyan developments.
LNA forces led by Khalifa Haftar and militias loyal to the Tripoli-based GNA say they are both agreeing to a cease-fire call offered by Turkey and Russia issued last Thursday. This would be the first truth in months of renewed and intensive fighting.
The cease-fire was set to go into effect early January 12. It was accepted by Haftar so long as the GNA would accept it as well. An LNA spokesman said "any breach will be met with a harsh response". The GNA posted, that "in response to the Turkish president and the Russian president's call for a cease-fire, the head of the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord announces a cease-fire."
The UN Mission in Libya UNSMIL welcomed the cease-fire and called on the sides "to strictly abide by the ceasefire and make room for peaceful efforts to address all disputes through a Libyan-Libyan dialogue". German Chancellor Angela Merkel supported the efforts and hoped they would be successful. Russian President Putin said "I am really counting on the opposing sides...ceasing armed combat... It's important to bring an end to the armed confrontation."
Russia and Turkey currently back the two opposing sides of the conflict. Observers note that the cease fire may be difficult to maintain due to the fact that both sides are comprised of numerous militias.
On Monday, the strategic coastal city of Sirte, under GNA control, fell to Haftar’s LNA in under three hours of fighting. Sirte has been under GNA control since it took the city back from ISIS, with American air support. The city’s defences reportedly collapsed as quickly as they did since the militia in charge of defending it, the Salafist Madkhali 604th Brigade, was convinced to switch its allegiance from the GNA to the LNA. The fall of Sirte has already raised concerns in the GNA that the militia stronghold of Misrata could be next, forcing the GNA to spread its defences thin.
The fall of Sirte to Haftar’s forces takes place as various foreign powers seem to be intensifying their involvement, seemingly jockeying for influence in the day-after. The fall of Sirte is a significant blow to the GNA, as it conceded its loss Tuesday.
Criticism of the growing role of foreign powers is also intensifying. Some are blaming foreign intervention for dictating the pace and intensity of the conflict. Analyst Fred Wehrey of the Carnegie Endowment noted that the fall of Sirte could be strategically significant, as it might draw GNA fighters away from Tripoli to defend Misrata or launch a counter-strike in Sirte.
A military training school suffered a deadly airstrike over the weekend in Tripoli, with at least 30 cadets killed and at least another 30 injured, according to a GNA spokesman. The details surrounding the airstrike are still unclear, but seems to be the work of LNA air forces. The LNA has so far rejected any connection to the event.
The UN mission to Libya added that the airstrikes have forced health and educational facilities to shut down temporarily. Rockets and shelling also forced Tripoli’s only functioning airport to close down on Friday.
The strikes comes at a time of increased air strikes and shelling in and around Tripoli in recent weeks, which have also killed at least 11 civilians since early December. Since Haftar’s assault on Tripoli in April, at least 280 civilians and around 2000 fighters have been killed in the fighting, with close to 150,000 people internally displaced.
The latest fighting saw LNA fighter jets bomb targets and arms depots in Misrata, a GNA militia stronghold. The LNA spokesman said these were preemptive strikes for expected landing points for Turkish military assistance.
Throughout the weekend of intense fighting, Haftar's spokesman called on all Misratan militias to "lay down their arms by midnight Sunday and withdraw peacefully. If they did not, the LNA will target Misrata "every day, non stop and in an unprecedentedly intensive way".
Related, 3 were reported killed in UAE drone strikes operating on behalf of the LNA on Saturday. The UAE operated drones carried out 10 total airstrikes around Tripoli, according to GNA sources, as well as in Zliten.
Only 2 days after LNA commander Haftar announced his "final" push to take Tripoli, intensified fighting has broken out over the past 24 hours between LNA and GNA forces south of the capital. This is almost 8 months after Haftar's offensive began to try to take Tripoli and end the ongoing civil conflict.
As part of the recent round of fighting, Haftar's forces called in reinforcements as fighting raged in the southern reaches of Tripoli and as the LNA forces took control of al-Tawghaar. GNA forces refuted this claim. An LNA spokesman said they shot down a Turkish drone backing GNA forces over the town of Ain Zara, in the southern suburbs of Tripoli. LNA forces also reportedly captured a GNA military camp. LNA forces also launched air strikes against an air base in Misrata, a GNA stronghold, targeting the warehouses that store the Turkish drones.
GNA sources are reporting that they managed to shoot down an LNA Mig-23 fighter jet yesterday near Al Zawiya, west of Tripoli. Further reports on social media claimed the pilot, who was captured after managing to eject, was Major General Amer Al-Jagam, the commander of the LNA air force in Al Zawiya. The co -pilot failed to eject and was killed.
LNA forces are being blamed for two air strikes in Libya that killed at least 16 civilians so far, mostly children, according to the GNA. One raid took place in the al-Swani area, south of Tripoli, where at least 5 children were killed and more wounded. The other attack took place in the southern town of Murzuq, where 9 children and 2 women were killed in drone attacks. The GNA is labelling these as war crimes and calling on the international community to "assume its responsibility toward (halting) these criminal acts that target and terrorise civilians."