By Mustafa Dalaa
The capture of strategic town Gharyan by government forces ends Haftar’s march to Tripoli.
Libya’s internationally recognized government forces have dealt a major blow to the forces loyal to eastern Libyan Commander Khalifa Haftar in a series of battles, by recapturing a number of towns and districts over past few weeks.
In a major success, few days back, the government forces regained control of the strategic city of Gharyan, in the south of capital Tripoli.
The UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli is battling against the forces led by Haftar since 2015.
The seizure of Gharyan by Tripoli forces is seen as a major blow to Haftar’s renewed military campaign to capture the capital.
He had launched a major military offensive to capture Tripoli on April 4, with his forces managing to reach to the outskirts of Tripoli city.
The Gharyan battle assumed significance, as it was the main command and supply center for the seven fronts in southern Tripoli.
It was also the main forward base for the rebel forces, where they stationed troops, weapons and ammunition for their Tripoli campaign.
Battle in Al-Zawiya
In April, when Haftar’s forces launched a three-pronged attack on capital Tripoli, they advanced in the town of Al-Ajaylat near the city of Sabratha, located some 70 kilometers west of the capital.
They then marched in to the city of Sorman, 60 kilometers from Tripoli. Both these towns were captured, without any resistance.
But on the following day, they faced resistance in the city of Al-Zawiya (45 kilometers west of Tripoli), before beating a hasty retreat.
Initially, Haftar forces captured a checkpoint called Gate 27. But soon lost it to Al-Zawiya brigade of government forces. After a fierce battle, 128 rebels surrendered.
Ever since, forces aligned to Haftar have not attacked Tripoli from the western hub of the international coastal road.
Siege of Al-Sawani district
Sleeper cells of Haftar in Al-Sawani district, some 30 kilometers southwest of Tripol, had taken control of the town.
They received reinforcement from the East. But on April 14, the Misrata Brigade laid a siege and choked supplies lines of Haftar loyal forces, leading to their surrender.
Located west of Tripoli old airport, Al-Sawani is a key point that both warring parties used as a launching pads, to take control of the airport. It also falls on the road to Gharyan from which the GNA launched its attack on June 26, to take control of the town.
At Al-Aziziyah local forces beat Haftar
Located roughly 45 kilometers south of the capital, Al-Aziziyah is a popular support base for the former regime.
Following a fierce fight, Haftar forces managed to capture the town within four days, after he started his military march towards Tripoli on April 4.
However, less than a week later, local forces recaptured the town. They stormed the headquarters of the Haftar’s 4th Brigade in the center of the town on April 13.
Haftar forces attempted to capture the town again, by launching number of attacks, which were foiled successfully.
Government forces gain in western districts
The Tripoli government forces took control of Al-Sawani district and liberated the town of Al-Zahra and the majority of the western districts including Al-Aziziyah.
They pushed the Haftar forces to the town of Qawasim on the outskirts of Gharyan.
On June 26, after weeks of calm in the western arc and battles in the center of the old airport, the GNA forces launched a surprise attack from two fronts that eventually led to the capture of Gharyan city.
In addition, they managed to block and secure an area stretched over 80 kilometers, marking a strategic victory to focus on the eastern axis of the capital.
The Haftar forces were also forced to withdraw from the Yarmouk camp, the largest barracks in the vicinity of Tripoli, north of old airport.
On April 10, Haftar forces took control of the camp, but were pushed back just a few hours later, due to stiff resistance posed by the government forces.
In June, after a relative lull, the GNA forces moved from their defense positions to intensify attacks on the airport road axis.
They then attacked the old airport, preventing Haftar forces from taking total control of the airport.
Writing by Mahmoud Barakat