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Forces allied with Libya’s GNA take control of key base near Tripoli

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A fighter with Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) fires rockets from a position near the town of Garabulli toward the city of Tarhuna, southwest of the capital Tripoli, April 19, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Forces allied with Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) have wrested control of a key military base on the outskirts of the capital Tripoli from renegade General Khalifa Haftar.

Pro- and anti-Haftar media, citing reliable military sources, reported on Monday that the forces with the GNA took the Watiya air base, about 125 kilometers southwest of Tripoli.

Footage posted on social media appeared to show the GNA forces driving down runways at the base unhindered.

The base has been an important strategic foothold for forces loyal to the eastern-based Haftar, who launched an offensive to capture Tripoli in April 2019.

The GNA forces have already pushed back against their rivals in recent weeks. Last month, they captured towns on the west coast of Tripoli.

Since 2014, two rival seats of power have emerged in Libya, namely the GNA of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, and another one based in the eastern city of Tobruk, supported militarily by rebel forces collectively known as the ‘Libyan National Army’ (LNA) under Haftar’s command.

The military commander, who lived in the United States for years, is supported by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Jordan.

Despite fierce fighting, Haftar has so far failed to achieve his objective of ousting the Tripoli government and the offensive has stalled outside the city. Reports say more than 1,000 people have to date been killed in the violence.

Turkey also signed a treaty with the GNA in November last year, and, in return for Libyan permission to access Mediterranean gas fields, has been supplying military support to the GNA.

Various international attempts to bring about peace between the two warring sides have also failed.

Haftar can still use a second airbase, Mitiga, to mount deadly assaults on Tripoli. Strikes from there continued against the capital on Monday.

Many of these assaults are killing civilians and destroying hospital facilities at a time when the country is trying to contain the new coronavirus outbreak.

According to the United Nations, seven health centers in Libya have been struck a dozen times since the beginning of this year.



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