Fresh fighting has flared near the Libyan capital, Tripoli, between pro-government forces and rebel fighters from the east of the country. Reports say clashes between Gen Khalifa Haftar’s rebels and pro-government groups are taking place in three suburbs to the south of the city.
Factions of the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by hardline General Khalifa Haftar, have made a thrust into Tripoli and have claimed to have taken control of Tripoli International Airport.
Tripoli is the base of the UN-backed, internationally recognized government.
Video has now emerged showing U.S. Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hovercraft approaching and landing on the beach in the town of Janzour, which is located just a few miles to the west of Tripoli. The LCACs supposedly landed, loaded-up, and left the area. U.S. Marines also likely supported the operation by providing additional security.
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An official statement from U.S. Africa Command says that personnel were “relocated” as a result of the deteriorating security situation.
— Ali Özkök (@Ozkok_) April 7, 2019
The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli was evacuated nearly five years ago via a tense convoy to the Tunisian border backed up by Marine airpower. Still, American forces and diplomatic staff have continued to work in Libya with a special focus on helping the UN-backed government maintain its rickety grip on portions of the country. It was hoped that a conference on holding national elections would be held soon, but that may be in question now as hostile forces sit in a position to potentially expel the UN-backed Government Of National Accord from their own capital.
General Haftar – who was appointed as chief of the Libyan National Army (LNA) under an earlier UN-backed administration – ordered his forces to advance on Tripoli on Thursday, as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was in the city to discuss the ongoing crisis.
The Libyan air force, which is nominally under government control, targeted an area 50km (30 miles) south of the capital on Saturday morning.
Meanwhile, Haftar has declared a no-fly-zone over the western half of Libya while government air power has been striking Haftar’s forces, albeit those sorties seem to have done little to slow his forces’ advance into Tripoli.
It is unclear if there were casualties but the LNA has vowed to retaliate.
Fighting has taken place in several areas, including near the disused international airport south of Tripoli.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the G7 are calling on troops loyal to Libya’s renegade General Khalifa Haftar to “halt” their military advance on Tripoli as clashes near the capital prompted concerns of a wider escalation in the North African country.