By Libya Herald reporters.
Benghazi, 21 February 2016:
After months of stalemate, the Libyan army in Benghazi today appeared to have broken through . . .[restrict]IS and Ansar Al-Sharia positions and captured the small but highly-important port of Mreisa, long the terrorists’ main source of men and supplies, mostly shipped from Misrata.
The army has published pictures showing Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief, General Khalifa Hafter in an operations room where he has taken personal charge of the battle.
Footage also released by the army showed troops advancing behind a tank which was trying to breach a high sand berm dumped across the road. No location was given but the demeanour of the troops suggested that they were flushed with success and pressing forward.
There are no figures for casualties in today’ fighting but when the army assault began yesterday on several fronts, as many as 18 soldiers were killed, including a Saiqa commander.
The army assault appears to have taken place on a wide front in Benghazi itself with fighting in Leithi, Bouatni and Hawari, where it is being claimed that the hospital has been recaptured. Since this morning there have been roadblocks on all the main streets in the city.
However the key development has been the claimed capture of Mreisa, 15 kilometres south of Benghazi, though some reports early this evening suggested that there was still resistance in the port itself, with the army occupying most of the town.
If Mreisa has fallen, the terrorists will have lost a vital supply link. Moreover, on paper at least, they may now be cut off by land, with government forces controlling a large arc of territory from the small port up to Benghazi.
Troops are also reported to have taken the Nakheil beach resort in Ganfouda, near Mreisa.
It is still unclear what caused the apparent sudden collapse of terrorist resistance. The loss of Mreisa does not necessarily mean IS and Ansar are completely cut off from resupply. In Sabri, which has held out in the face of regular government attacks, weapons and reinforcements have been landed on the beach.
In the last 18 months of fighting, Hafter has announced several times that his forces would triumph within weeks. However, until now, pushes by the army have tended to peter out after a day or two. The terrorists have then counterattacked – Hawari Hospital had for instance changed hands at least twice. Thus the Benghazinos who have tonight been tweeting “Game Over” may be celebrating prematurely. [/restrict]