Summary: Haftar’s LNA remains stuck around Tripoli. More bloodshed, but not comparable with true civil war. International community ineffective.
The military situation in Libya remains stalemated. The “Libyan National Army” (LNA) commanded by Khalifa Haftar who controls most of eastern Libya remains in the positions around Tripoli to which it advanced in April with little change.
The forces more or less loyal to the internationally recognised “Government of National Accord” (GNA) have blocked their further advance but have been unable to drive them back.
According to the UN more than 100 civilians have been killed and 120,000 displaced; there are no confirmed figures for fighters who have died but “anecdotally the figure appears to be in the low thousands”.
A detailed security picture is in the latest report by Whispering Bell. Despite this oil production and revenue is holding up well and a 2 September Reuters report is headed “Benghazi port bustling again despite Libya’s divisions”.
There have been many instances of attacks on civilian targets which could be considered war crimes. Haftar’s forces seem likely to be guilty of some or most, but certainty is elusive in the propaganda war.
On 28 July four doctors and a paramedic were killed in an attack on a school and hospital in Tripoli; according to the UN there had by then been 37 attacks on health staff and facilities since April resulting in a total of 11 deaths, 33 injuries and 19 ambulances directly or indirectly impacted.
On 10 August 3 UN workers were killed and dozens of civilian wounded by a car bomb in Benghazi as Libyans were shopping in preparation for the Eid.
A UN statement deploring the attack noted that it was in an area “supposedly under full control” of the LNA.
The GNA and LNA agreed to a temporary cease-fire for the Eid from 11 to 14 August. Despite some violations the cease-fire was generally successful.
On 1 September an airstrike was carried out on Mitiga Airport, Tripoli’s only functioning airport, reportedly the seventh attack in four weeks.
Four projectiles hit the parking lot, the runway, and damaged an aircraft carrying dozens of pilgrims returning from the Hajj; two airport staff were injured.
The LNA denied responsibility, blaming “terrorist militias”.
A UN spokesman said it was documenting the incident for the International Criminal Court and Security Council; “Those behind the attacks should be held accountable.”
Foreign intervention continues to be reported.
The UAE and Egypt support the LNA, Turkey and Qatar support the GNA.
The position of outside powers is not so clear, although France and Russia are often said to support the LNA and Italy the GNA; in the Security Council the five permanent members officially recognise the GNA, but it is striking that they have been unable to point the finger at those who are blatantly reaching the UN embargo on military support and supplies.
On 26 August the new commander of US Africa Command (Africom) met the GNA Prime Minister Fayiz al-Sarraj in Tunisia; he “emphasised… The importance of supporting a diplomatic solution to put an end to the current crisis… It is important to ensure violent extremist organisations do not feel that they can use circumstances in Libya to create chaos and further their objectives.”
In July about 1,000 Sudanese militia from the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the first contingent of about 4,000, reportedly arrived to back up the LNA and allow Haftar to concentrate more forces on the attack on Tripoli.
On 5 August the LNA claimed to have destroyed Turkish drones and infrastructure 50 miles south of Misrata and to have damaged an Ilyushin transport aircraft delivering munitions from Turkey.
A Jane’s report publishes an image of a Chinese Wing Loong II drone; oddly the image is sourced to “Operation Volcano of Anger”, a GNA not LNA operation; Wing Loongs have been acquired by Egypt and the UAE but not apparently by Turkey.
The full text of the UN secretary general’s briefing to the Security Council on 30 August provides a comprehensive picture of the present situation (including important areas not covered in this posting – oil, the economy, migrants), except that it still refrains from naming the states that are stoking the conflict in breach of the UN embargo.
A statement by the UN special representative Ghassan Salamé to the Security Council on 4 September provides an update.