By Libya Herald staff.
Ras Jedir/Tunis, 15 December 2014:
The main border crossing into Tunisia at Ras Jedir which was abandoned by guards . . .[restrict]from Zuwara early yesterday morning was back in Libya Dawn hands last night and is open again. Misratan militia commander and former GNC member Salah Badi, who is now described as an Air Force colonel, was seen visiting the post.
Nearby Abu Khammash is also back in Libya Dawn hands.
According to Hafez Muammar, the spokesman for both Zuwara Municipal Council, both the town and the Abu Khammash area were again bombed today by a Libyan National Army (LNA) aircraft. A previously targeted brick factory had again been hit but there had been no casualties, he told the Libya Herald.
Yesterday, he claimed, LNA bombing in the vicinity of Ras Jedir had forced the Zuwaran frontier guards to evacuate the post for the safety of travellers and guards alike. Following the evacuation, he said, Zintani forces had moved in, and stayed till around 3 pm when Libya Dawn forces arrived. In the subsequent heavy fighting, he added, the Zintanis had been forced to retreat but 15 fighters were killed and a similar number injured. All were thought to be from Libya Dawn forces.
Zintani casualties are not known.
Contradicting this, a commander at the Zintan Operations Room told this newspaper that his forces had not taken over the post, nor had they any intention of doing so at present. He claimed the Zintanis could move freely in the border district – and were doing so. The intention, he said, was to harry and pin down Libya Dawn forces in the area.
For his part, Muammar said that he expected “more fighting to come”.
Clarifying the situation at Ras Jedir, a Tunisian border official said it was now open but that almost no Libyans were crossing either way. “They’re afraid [of the fighting],” he said.
Furthermore, Tunisians heading to Libya or back from there had been told to avoid it and to use the Wazen-Dehiba further south instead, he explained. He added that for the moment no Tunisians under 35 years of age were not being allowed to cross into Libya. This appears to be a bid to stop Tunisian militants joining the ranks of Ansar Al-Sharia in Libya; there are claims that a significant number of it members are Tunisian.
Muammar meanwhile insisted that Libya Dawn was not a force. “It’s an army operation.” Its goal, he insisted, was “to make peace, security and stability in Libya”. It existed, he added, not only for Islamists but “for all the country” – unlike the opposition which he claimed consisted of Zintanis and others who had previously supported Qaddafi. “People have also said, although I have not seen this, that there are other nationalities involved, like Egyptians and Tunisians, fighting as mercenaries.”
The accusation that the “other” uses non-Libyan mercenaries is one that has been heard from all sides since the 2011 revolution started.
The claim that Libya Dawn is an army operation rather than a force mirrors the one from the Thinni government that Operation Dignity in Benghazi as well the Zintanis and the Warshfana in the west are part of the LNA. However, there is now further confusion over the status of Libya Dawn, a mixture of Misratan forces and western militias that are part of the Islamist-leaning Libyan Revolutionise Operations Room.
According to a Misratan commander of the force that attempted to seize Sidra the day before yesterday, it was not Libya Dawn that had carried out his operation. Libya Dawn no longer existed, he claimed. The Sidra move was executed by Operation Sharouq (Sunrise), he stated. This, he said, was under the direct control of Major-General Abdelsalam Jadallah Obeidi, the Chief of Staff sacked by the HoR but still recognised by the rump General National Congress. [/restrict]