By Sami Zaptia.
London, 24 July 2019:
The Tripoli forces aligned with the internationally-recognized Faiez Serraj-led Presidency Council and Government of National Accord, say they have successfully repulsed the much heralded offensive by the Khalifa Hafter-led Libyan National Army (LNA) and their aligned forces.
Meanwhile, the pro Hafter forces claim they have made progress on a number of fronts.
The various forces defending Tripoli said that they have successfully repulsed Hafter’s forces on the Khallat Al-Furjan, Al-Yarmouk, Ain Zara and at the Wadi Rabea fighting fronts.
They claim to have easily repulsed Hafter’s forces on the Khallat Al-Furjan front with no losses.
On the Ain Zara front they claim they fought an historic battle and that they even pushed Hafter’s forces back, inflicting on them huge losses in life and munitions, while suffering little losses.
On the Wadi Rabea front, the forces defending Tripoli said that there was a huge effort by Hafter’s forces to make a breakthrough under heavy air cover, which they withstood with little losses.
They also claim that their Air Force carried out numerous air strikes on Hafter positions which were instrumental in repulsing Hafter’s offensive.
They claim that the heavy fighting has now stopped in many fronts after the failure of Hafter’s forces to make progress after their “delusional zero hour offensive”.
It will be recalled that the Hafter forces had announced Monday 9.00 hrs as the launch of their “zero hour” offensive to “liberate Tripoli from terrorist and criminal militias” as part of their “second wave” attack on the capital.
The new military escalation came after the appointment of the new LNA Western Operations Room commander,
announced on Sunday 21 July, to replace Maj-Gen. Abdussalam Al-Hassi.
The new commander is Maj-Gen. Mabrouk Al-Ghazawi.
Some reports say Hassi was arrested following the LNA’s loss of Gharian in June, allegedly being held either under house arrest in Benghazi or at the LNA’s headquarters at Rajma pending a court martial.
Other sources, however, say that while Hassi has been removed as commander of the Western Operations Room he has not been stripped of his position as commander of the Dignity Operations Room. They say that Hassi is simply being side-lined by Haftar, like Wanis Bukhamada and former air force chief Saqr Adam Geroushi.
Ghazawi was appointed by the LNA as military governor and mayor of Kufra in 2016. In March 2018, he was appointed as commander of the LNA’s Sebha Operations Room.
Meanwhile, the pro Hafter forces claimed that they had launched a large-scale offensive and succeeded in advancing to new points in Tripoli after Monday’s offensive.
The LNA War Information Division said that progress is continuing for all its units, according to the tasks assigned to it by the Advanced Operations Room.
It claimed that its units were able to capture a number of munitions and inflict significant losses of life on forces defending Tripoli.
It also claimed that the success in pushing the Tripoli forces back, led to the defensive forces’ retreat to the rear points inside the capital.
On the Airport road to Ain Zara front, the War Information Division claimed that they had made advances and surrounded the much fought over Naqliya transport camp and other locations.
The War Information Division claimed that they are stationing new forces who’s locations they will not reveal, and that the LNA’s movements are continuing and with “orders to document and not publish.”
They also claimed that their air force carried out night-time air strikes focused on south and east of Tripoli, targeting Tripoli forces’ positions in Wadi al-Rabea, Ain Zara and various areas.
It will be recalled that almost every week since the offensive against Tripoli was launched on 4 April, the LNA and its supporters have announced that the capital is about to be taken – sometimes within hours.
The continued failure to do so has created a belief in Tripoli and among those opposed to Haftar that it will never happen.
On 16 July, Sarraj’s chief political adviser, Taher Sonni, speaking at a meeting on Libya in Brussels organised by CEPS, said that the LNA would never be able to take Tripoli, because everyone there is firmly united against it.
The fact that the LNA has not won so far and the view that it therefore cannot win may be dangerously complacent. Hafter equally underestimated how much time it would take to “liberate” Benghazi and Derna.
Nevertheless, questions have to be asked about the belief in victory by the Hafter forces and their tribal backers too – not to talk of his international backers. Tripoli would hope they would lose patience and belief and abandon Hafter’s efforts.
The inability to make any visible progress since April – indeed Hafter’s forces have been ejected from Gharian in June – must be eroding morale and raising self doubt within some of the Hafter camp.