Fighters loyal to the internationally recognized Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) keep position near the Salah al-Din military compound, south of the Libyan capital Tripoli, on May 7, 2019. - (Photo: MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images)

Libyan Rebels Threaten Turkey

Dissident general Khalifa Haftar puts Turkish vessels in cross-hairs following Ankara’s shipment of arms to the UN-recognized government in Tripoli

The “Libyan National Army” (LNA) announced on Monday that it had banned access to all ports in the west of the country since the previous evening, following news of a Turkish weapons shipment that arrived in Tripoli on Saturday. The ban aims to prevent the arrival of military supplies destined for armed militias in Tripoli, the country’s capital.

Khalifa Haftar, the LNA’s commander-in-chief, decided on the ban, the Military Information Division of the LNA’s General Command stated via social media. Accordingly, the LNA put its naval forces on alert, “in addition to imposing a closure on all maritime ports in the western region,” the statement added.

Moreover, according to the statement, the LNA’s naval forces would carry out a decisive attack on any ships, especially Turkish ones, approaching the ports.

On Saturday, a vessel arrived in Tripoli from the Turkish port of Samsun with a large shipment of weapons and ammunition, as well as a variety of military vehicles, as documented by photos and videos on social media.

Experts said the armored vehicles were of the same type that Turkey used in its military operations in Syria. Libya has been undergoing a political and military crisis since the regime of president Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011. Two main factions are fighting for power: the internationally recognized Government of National Accord, led by Fayez al-Sarraj, which is based in Tripoli, and an “interim government” operating in eastern Libya, headed by Abdullah al-Thani, who is supported by the House of Representatives based in Tobruk and the “Libyan National Army” led by Khalifa Hafter.

“Both parties (Sarraj and Thani) are being used as tools by superpowers that have interests in Libya,” Hisham Jaber, a former general in the Lebanese army and the head of the Middle East Studies Center in Beirut, told The Media Line. Jaber said a national conference was needed to resolve the situation, “a conference that would include all components of Libyan society, including the tribes and the other political parties whose voice isn’t heard.”

When asked about the military supplies, the former general stated that Istanbul was benefiting economically and politically from the conflict, because Turkey had political interests in Libya, and “arms provide political influence.”

He clarified that Ghassan Salame, the United Nations envoy to Libya, was trying to bring the conflicting parties together. Jaber asserted, however, that the situation could not be resolved unless the UN secretary general removed US influence from the situation and called a general conference.

“The American side has interests in Libya and if it can’t benefit (from a resolution of the conflict), it would want the situation to remain chaotic,” Jaber added. He pointed out that Libyan was rich in oil and gas, and had a unique location, saying this explained why regional and international countries were fighting over the country.

Turkey and Qatar are considered the most important supporters of the Libyan government in Tripoli.

“All efforts by the UN envoy have failed,” Hasan Nafaa, an Egyptian analyst and political science instructor at Cairo University, stated. Nafaa elaborated to The Media Line: “The main issue here is the inability of the conflicting powers in Libya to find a formula for a peaceful solution.” He explained that the Libyan conflict that was local became internationalized due to the “involvement of Arab and European countries, as well as the United States and China.”

Furthermore, Nafaa said that as the situation could not be solved by military means, and it was not moving toward any political solution, “a regional as well as international consensus are required to force a ceasefire and enter a new chapter.” He continued, “Neither government can decide the battle militarily.”

“There is no indication of that solution will come anytime soon, but if that doesn’t happen, Libya will burn,” Nafaa said.

Haftar’s forces launched a major offensive on April 4 to take Tripoli. He said he sought to “cleanse it of terrorists.”

The United Nations confirmed in a report last month that at least 2,200 people had fled the fighting south of Tripoli since April 4, and that many other civilians were trapped in the area and unable to access emergency services. The report added that the deployment of more troops around the capital and the increased combat operations would result in the displacement of more people. Aid and relief agencies in the area said that there were enough medical supplies for about 200,000 people for three months.


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