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article imageOp-Ed: Haftar helped by Egypt gaining ground in Libya attacks

By Ken Hanly     Jun 2, 2017 in World
According to a report in Al Jazeera, forces loyal to eastern commander Marshal Khalifa Haftar launched attacks almost simultaneously against forces associated with the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).
The attacks happened just hours after unidentified jets bombed GNA-held areas. Haftar does not recognize the GNA government. His forces, the Libyan National Army(LNA) are associated with the rival House of Representatives(HoR) government. The Bunyan al-Marsous(BAM) forces who who were involved in the clashes earlier captured Sirte from the Islamic State. BAM forces, who support the GNA, said they were attacked on Friday both by Haftar and by Islamic State(IS) forces in the central district of Al Jufra which is south of Sirte. While IS has no longer control over major centers they still exist in a number of areas in Libya. Al Jazeera's reporter Mahmoud Abdelwahed said from Tripoli the capital: "Fresh fighting has erupted between forces loyal to renegade commander Khalifa Haftar and forces loyal to the UN-backed GNA, helped by the Benghazi Defence Brigades in the area of al-Jufra in the central desert of Libya." He said warplanes, believed to be Egyptian, hit 14 locations in Jufra overnight including several residential areas and the Jufra air base used by UN-backed GNA forces. Abdelwahed said the raids caused heavy material damage but there were no reports of casualties. The Jufra area is about 400km to the south of Sirte.
Egyptian president Abdel el-Sisi said on Friday that he had directed strikes against what he called "terrorist camps". On television he said that states that sponsored terrorism would be punished. Apparently this includes the UN-sponsored GNA. Do not expect that the GNA or the UN will do anything other than perhaps let fly some moral put downs and requests that Haftar stop all his successful military endeavours. El-Sisi said: "Egypt will never hesitate to strike terror camps anywhere ... if it plans attacking Egypt whether inside or outside the country." Egypt's original attacks were made on the city of Derna which has been under siege by Haftar for ages. The city is ruled by a Shura Council that is anti-Haftar. The group was instrumental in driving the Islamic State (IS) out of Derna some time ago. El-Sisi maintains that the armed men who carried out an attack in Egypt that killed 29 Coptic Christians and wounded many more were trained in camps in Derna. This is a highly unlikely story. More likely he used the terror attack to help out his friend Haftar while appearing to do something to stop terror attacks. The reports of clashes with the Islamic State have yet to be confirmed in that other reports do not mention it.
The Libya Observer makes no mention of any clashes with the IS but reports clashes between local gunmen and fighters from the Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB) in the town of Waddan in the Al-Jufra region killed seven gunmen and five BDB fighters. Locals report that the BDB fighters were on the their way to the nearby Al-Jufra airbase after they had been ambushed by gunmen in Waddan who were loyal to Khalifa Haftar's Dignity Operation meant to clear Libya of his Islamist opponents. It began in May of 2014. Forces loyal to Haftar had attempted earlier in the day to advance into Al-Jufra airbase after a night of intense aerial bombardment. They were repelled by BDB fights on the road between Waddan and Zillah another town in the Al Jufra area where Haftar forces are stationed. After the clashes Haftar forces moved into Waddan while the BDB fighters withdrew into the Al-Jufra air base. There is no city of al Jufra as some tweets and reports suggest. It is an area in central Libya south of Sirte with five main towns Waddan, Zillah, Hun the capital, Sawknahan and Al-Fuqaha as well as the airbase. Zillah and Waddan are under control of forces loyal to Haftar.
There are many tweets describing the situation. One tweet claims: "Libyan Army regains control over Widdan & Sokana South of #Libya after heavy clashes with BDB & Mercenaries from Chad." Another tweet remarks: "LNA is gaining grounds in South Libya. HoR will be taking a much better seat at any future negotiations table" Indeed and the GNA appears to be making no effort to reinforce the BDB forces who appear to be providing the only resistance to Haftar. A third tweet notes: "Controlling Jufra is key to holding the rest of the southern region, where 80% of Libya's oil is produced. GNA well choke over this" The actions of the GNA are hard to decipher. They already gave up without a fight the Tamenhent airbase a key base in the south.
While numerous countries especially in the west support the GNA, none of them are bringing any complaints before the UN security council to condemn Egypt's air strikes and giving support to Haftar's military advances in Libya. Instead Egypt will ask for a meeting of the Council at which it will defend its bombings. Now that's chutzpah as the Israelis would put it. A tweet claims: "#Egypt organizes a June 27 UN security council meeting on combating terrorism in #Libya"
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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