The French newspaper Le Monde has stated that since the beginning of the year the balance of military power in Libya has changed in favour of the Government of National Accord (GNA), after Turkey put a new generation of drones in service.
In an article that has recently been published on the newspapers website, Frédéric Bobin affirmed that the military escalation that took place in recent days near the Libyan capital of Tripoli, perpetuates a shift in the balance of powers at the expense of retired Major General Khalifa Haftar’s forces.
The newspaper pointed out that the shift of the current military balance in Tripoli is the outcome of increased Turkish participation alongside the internationally-recognised GNA, especially the introduction of a new generation of drones with more efficient technology.
“The balance of power has changed radically since the beginning of the year,” the newspaper quoted Wolfram Lacher, a researcher at the German Institute for International Affairs and Security in Berlin.
Lacher stated that: “The reason is that Turkish drones and anti-aircraft defence systems installed by Ankara in Tripoli have had an impact on preventing Emirati flights from reaching Tripoli or Misrata.”
Before that, Emiratis had been controlling the sky in the service of Haftar, according to the newspaper.
On military operations in the time of the coronavirus, the newspaper pointed out that the pandemic has had no impact on the ongoing fighting around the capital of Tripoli, despite international calls to end hostilities to better combat the virus.
According to the newspaper, a United Nations source condemned the ongoing clashes that hindered the health mobilisation against the coronavirus pandemic, citing it as a “real time bomb”.
The source pointed out that the official figures quote 48 injuries and one death, but the health system is not organised due to the ongoing violence.
It is worth noting that the forces of the GNA managed last Monday, within the Operation Peace Storm, to liberate six cities and two strategic areas from the Haftar militia, most notably Sabratha and Sorman, which means their control of the entire western coast to the Tunisian border.
The Operation Peace Storm was launched by government forces on 26 March, and it came in response to ongoing violations by the Haftar militia aimed at controlling Tripoli.
Libya turning into ‘experimental field’ for arms as war heats up -UN
Libya is turning into “an experimental field for all kinds of new weapons systems”, the United Nations’ acting special envoy said, with foreign supporters of its warring parties shipping in arms and fighters in violation of an embargo.
Libya’s conflict escalated sharply this month, with fierce fighting on several different fronts in the west of the country despite urgent calls from the U.N. and aid agencies for a truce to tackle the coronavirus crisis.
The new wave of fighting has been fuelled by arms imported from abroad, the U.N. acting envoy Stephanie Williams said in an online news conference.
“We have something called the RPO-A flame thrower, which is some kind of thermobaric system that is being used in the southern suburbs of Tripoli.
We have new UAVs (drones) that are being brought in, including a UAV that is essentially like a suicide UAV that explodes on impact,” Williams said.
“These are just two examples of very frightening systems that are being deployed in an urban setting which is completely unacceptable,” she added.
Concerns that the conflict may have taken a dark new turn emerged late on Wednesday when the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) said it was investigating a possible chemical weapons attack on its forces.
The Libyan National Army (LNA) of eastern-based Khalifa Haftar has been shelling the capital Tripoli, the seat of the GNA, since launching a military campaign to capture the city a year ago.
Pro-GNA forces have in recent weeks mounted their own offensives to drive back the LNA, capturing some towns in the northwest last week and moving towards Haftar’s main strategic centre in the region, the town of Tarhouna.
The LNA is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt, the GNA by Turkey, whose military support from January onwards has helped change the balance of power on the ground.
The GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha said in a message to Reuters that the reports of fighters being affected by nerve gas in the Tripoli suburb of Salahedine were based on initial reports from field hospitals.
“The GNA is currently investigating,” he added. It will await a final report before informing the U.N.’s chemical weapons watchdog, the OPCW, the ministry said.
The LNA spokesman, Ahmed Mismari, described the report that chemical weapons may have been used, in a statement as “rumours and lies”.
Williams said it was “a very, very concerning report”.
“We as the UN call on all of those who are violating the arms embargo, including countries who sat down at the table in Berlin, signed up to respect the arms embargo, but yet continue to blatantly violate it. And that must stop.”
(Reporting by Angus McDowall; Editing by Hugh Lawson)