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The 2019 Western Libya offensive, code-named "Operation Flood of Dignity" (Arabic: عملية طوفان الكرامة‎),[37] is a military campaign by the Libyan National Army under Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, which represents the Libyan House of Representatives, to capture the western region of Libya and eventually the capital Tripoli held by the UN Security Council-recognised Government of National Accord.

2019 Western Libya offensive
Part of Second Libyan Civil War and 2016–19 West Libya clashes
Western Libya Operation (2019).png
Map showing the Libyan National Army's offensive within western Libya

     Libyan National Army control      Government of National Accord control       Controlled by local Amazigh militias

     Neutral area
Date4 April 2019 – present
(6 months, 1 week and 3 days)
Location
Western Libya
Status Ongoing
Belligerents

Libya House of Representatives

Libyan Arab Jamahiriya PFLL (alleged)[3]
Supported by:
 Saudi Arabia[4]
 Egypt[5][6][7]
 Russia[4]
 United Arab Emirates[5][8]
 France[9][8][10]
 Sudan (RSF)[11]

 Jordan[12]

Libya Government of National Accord

Misrata militias[16]
Zawiya militias[13]
Libya Shield Force (alleged)[3]
Supported by:
 Turkey[17][18]
 Qatar (per LNA)[19]
 Italy (per locals)[20]

 Ukraine (alleged; since 2019)[21]
Commanders and leaders
Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar
(LNA supreme commander)
Maj. Gen. Abdulrazek al-Nadoori[22]
(Chief of staff)
Maj. Gen. Abdul Salam al-Hassi
(Senior commander)
Brig. Gen. Ahmed al-Mismari
(Senior commander)
Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj
(Head of unity government)
Maj. Gen. Osama al-Juwaili
(Joint operations room leader)
Maj. Gen. Abdul Basset Marwan[23]
(Tripoli Military Region commander)
Emad al-Tarabelsi[14]
(Capital security commander)
Atef Braqeek
(Tripoli Protection Force commander)
Strength
3,000[24] 3,000[24]
Casualties and losses
Unknown killed
1 MiG-21MF lost[25][26]
6 UAE soldiers killed (alleged by GNA)(According to Reuters, soldiers died in Yemen)[27][28][29][a]
Unknown killed
2 Mirage F1, 2 L-39 and 1 helicopter lost and 12 Bayraktar Tactical UAV (per LNA; 2 Mirage F1, 1 L-39 and 1 helicopter loss confirmed)[30][31][32][33][34]

1,093 killed overall (987 combatants and 106 civilians)[35]
5,752 wounded overall (5,458 combatants and 294 civilians)[35]
90,000 displaced[36]


a UAE announced the death of six soldiers in a car collision in Yemen. However, GNA alleged that they killed six UAE soldiers during airstrikes.

The offensive resulted in almost 1,100 dead and 5,800 injured.[35] It began on 4 April 2019,[38] just ten days before the Libyan National Conference for organising presidential and parliamentary elections in Libya had been planned to take place,[39] and five days after the first session of the 2019 Libyan local elections was held successfully.[40]

War crimes and crimes against humanity that take place during the conflict are covered by the mandate of the International Criminal Court investigation in Libya under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1970.[41][42]

BackgroundEdit

Following the overthrow and death of Muammar Gaddafi and the fall of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in 2011, political and military control in Libya were in a state of flux. Fighting between different factions escalated in 2014, with the House of Representatives, based in the eastern city of Tobruk, being the main political force claiming to be the legitimate government of Libya. The House of Representatives was supported by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army. In early 2016 a rival government, the Government of National Accord (GNA), was established in Tripoli with the backing of the UN and several countries.[43] There were multiple attempts to negotiate between the two governments and organise new elections throughout 2017 and 2018.[44][45][46] Haftar and GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj met and spoke with each other twice for negotiations, in November 2018 and February 2019.[47] The Supreme Judicial Council of Libya, created in 2011,[48] retained its structure as a single national body despite the political split,[49] and in 2019 went through Libya-wide "transparent elections" and a "peaceful transfer of power".[50]

Face-to-face consultations with 7,000 Libyans and online consultations with 130,000 Libyans during 2018–2019, coordinated by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, led to a plan to hold the Libyan National Conference in Ghadames during 14–16 April 2019 in order to recommend to the Libyan House of Representatives and High Council of State methods and dates for holding 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections in Libya.[39] The first batch of the 2019 municipal elections in Libya took place on 30 March 2019.[40] Other aims of the conference, to which representatives of all political factions were invited, included creating a unity government between Sarraj and Haftar and proposing a framework for creating a new constitution.[1] In March 2019, the advance of Haftar's forces in southern Libya during the preceding few months started to cause concern for the organisers of the conference.[51] Ghassan Salamé, head of UNSMIL, stated on 4 April 2019 that the conference would be postponed because of the outburst of military events, but that it would be held

"as soon as possible because we do not have the right to allow this historic opportunity to be corrupted. At the same time, we cannot ask for the presence of the Conference, with the [cannons] firing and the raids ongoing, without making sure that all those who are willing to respond to this historic national duty from all regions of the country are able to ensure their safety and freedom by expressing their opinion."[39]

On 4 April 2019, an audio recording was published on Facebook by Marshal Haftar declaring war on the UN-recognised Government of National Accord and announcing that the LNA would militarily take over the capital city Tripoli.[52] In response, the government in Tripoli, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and the Presidential Council ordered a general mobilisation of all of its security forces.[53][54] On April 6, Prime Minister Sarraj, as supreme commander of the Libyan Army, created a joint operations room under the western military region commander, Major General Osama al-Juwaili, to coordinate their operations.[55]

International (non-UNSMIL)Edit

From early 2015, during the years prior to the April 2019 attack on Tripoli, Haftar received long-term support from French authorities, including French "advisers, clandestine operatives, and special forces"[56] helping the LNA's military operations in the east and south of Libya.[57][58] Three of the French special-forces soldiers died in a helicopter accident near Benghazi in July 2016.[56] Bloomberg News stated that the al-Sarraj administration had long-term support from Italian authorities.[57] The Economist argued that a May 2018 meeting between al-Sarraj and Haftar, hosted by French president Emmanuel Macron in the context of French-Italian rivalry with regards to Libya, "undermined" the efforts of Ghassan Salamé in facilitating the organising of the Libyan National Conference by Libyans. The Economist pointed to the Greenstream pipeline natural gas pipeline and French and Italian crude oil interests in Libya as significant factors in the two countries' relations with Libyan political forces in 2018.[59]

Bloomberg News described Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates as "backers" of Haftar.[57] Prior to the LNA attack on Tripoli, the Saudi Arabian government gave twenty million US dollars to the LNA in support of the attack, "to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders, recruit and pay fighters, and other military purposes."[60]

The campaignEdit

AprilEdit

4 April

On the first day of the offensive, 4 April 2019, the LNA captured Gharyan.[61] Haftar urged pro-GNA militias to surrender, saying "Those who lay down their weapons are safe, and those who raise the white banner are safe."[62] Interior minister Fathi Bashagha condemned the offensive, declaring that "We will not be subdued by any use of force by any side or any person. And if anyone is willing to use force against us we're ready for sacrifice but we will not give up on democracy which we've always wanted from the beginning."[62]

5 April

On 5 April, the Libyan National Army stated that they had captured Qasr ben Ghashir, Wadi al-Rabie and Suq al-Khamis.[63] LNA then marched toward Tripoli from several directions, reaching the city's outskirts after receiving orders to capture the city.[64][65] The LNA reported asserting control over the town of Azizia.[38][66] The LNA briefly captured a key checkpoint, known as Gate 27, on the road between Tripoli and Tunisia, but withdrew overnight.[67] The head of the GNA Presidential Council, Faiz al-Sarraj, ordered the air units loyal to the GNA to use force against the LNA, in order to "counter threats to civilians."[68] The GNA interior ministry ordered all of its forces to be placed on maximum alert.[69] The United Nations Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting on the same day to discuss the recent developments in Libya.[70] Later in the day the LNA reported capturing the town of Suq al-Khamis, located 20 kilometres (20,000 m) south of Tripoli, after clashes with pro-GNA militias.[71][72] Meanwhile, the leader of the LNA, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, met with UN Secretary General António Guterres in the former's office in Tobruk.[73] During the late hours of the day a battle broke out over Tripoli International Airport, in which LNA forces were able to successfully capture the airfield and defend it from a GNA counter-attack.[74]

6 April

On 6 April, the LNA air force declared western Libya a no-fly zone[75][76] and began to engage GNA targets,[77] after GNA jets targeted LNA positions in Mizdah and Suq al-Khamis.[14] Haftar issued orders against using the LNA's aircraft in battle.[1] The LNA reported recapturing Gate 27,[78] as well as asserting control over Salah al-Din[79] and Ain Zara neighbourhood in southern Tripoli,[80] after pro-GNA militias surrendered to the LNA.[81] By nightfall forces loyal to the GNA launched a counterattack on the airport in southern Tripoli,[82] which was repelled by the advancing LNA, according to Haftar.[83]

7 April

A US military contingent and a contingent of Indian police peacekeepers were evacuated from Tripoli.[84]

Colonel Mohamed Gnounou, the GNA military spokesman, announced that they started a counteroffensive to reclaim the territories in Tripoli taken by the LNA, dubbed "Operation Volcano of Anger". The UN mission in Libya asked for a two-hour ceasefire in south Tripoli to evacuate civilians.[85][86]

In an official declaration, the Ministry of Health of the GNA declared their casualties at 21 dead and 27 wounded.[87]

The LNA conducted an airstrike against a GNA position in southern Tripoli, the Bab al-Azizia military compound,[88] the first LNA airstrike to target a part of the city.[2][89][90] It is thought that Haftar has a superior air force, supplied by the United Arab Emirates,[91] although the Libyan Air Force is nominally loyal to the GNA.[15]

By the end of the day, an LNA spokesman, Major General al-Mesmari, reported that the LNA reached the Fernaj neighbourhood of Tripoli and are advancing through the eastern neighbourhoods of the city.[92][93]

8 April

The GNA airforce launched an air strike on the early hours of Monday on al-Watiyah, the only airbase captured by LNA since the launch of the operation, located 130 kilometres (80 miles) southeast of Tripoli.[94]

As part of the operation Volcano of Anger launched by GNA, Mistrata militias mobilized on the frontlines of Tripoli to prevent the LNA from capturing it.[95]

The LNA withdrew from Tripoli International Airport after clashes with the GNA.[96][97] Fighting over the airport continued after the withdrawal.[98]

The LNA reported capturing Yarmouk Military Camp in southern Tripoli.[99] The LNA used BM-21 Grad MRLs against GNA positions[100] in retaliation for GNA airstrikes.[101] GNA-held Mitiga International Airport was repeatedly hit by LNA airstrikes,[102] reportedly originating from what appeared to be Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21[103] jets based off al-Watiya airbase in western Libya.[104] The airport was closed after the raid.[105] At the time it closed, Mitiga was the only functioning airport in Tripoli.[106]

Atef Braqeek, the commander of the Tripoli Protection Forces, declared that the group was in full control of al-Hira and Aziziyah.[107]

According to Libya al-Ahrar TV as cited by The Libya Observer, a team of French "military experts" arrived in Gharyan and created a "control room to monitor the attack on Tripoli".[108][109]

9 April

The LNA targeted positions of the GNA near Tripoli International Airport with airstrikes.[110] Shortly thereafter, the LNA air force bombed a GNA site in Warshavana, western Tripoli.[111] Fighting resumed near Tripoli International Airport.[112] Several more LNA airstrikes continued hitting the airport during the afternoon clashes.[113] It was reported that the airport closed on 8 April, after it was bombed by the GNA, and also that the Misrata Airport, located 200 km (125 miles) to the east down the coast,[16] was the nearest airport for Tripoli residents.[16][114] A GNA spokesperson claimed that the GNA air force carried out several raids against LNA supply lines.[115] LNA and GNA forces engaged in a battle for control over the road to Tripoli Int'l Airport and Qasir bin Gashir detention center, which at that time housed over 600 people.[116] By the end of the day, the LNA military information division stated that they have taken back control of Tripoli International Airport, as well as captured the neighbourhoods of al-Tueish, al-Sawani and most of Ain Zara.[117]

10 April

The GNA reported bombing LNA targets within the LNA-held town of Gharyan.[118] The LNA announced that they have captured the 4th Brigade Headquarters in the town of Azizya after fierce fighting with the GNA.[119] The UNHCR attempted to evacuate detained refugees from the Qasir bin Gashir detention center, after it became stuck in crossfire between the two sides.[120] Reports suggest most detainees were transferred to Sekah Road detention center, but around 120 people were left behind and were still in the Qasir bin Gashir detention center by the morning.[121] During the afternoon, the LNA air force conducted an airstrike against GNA targets near Tripoli airport.[122] By sunset, LNA spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Ahmed al-Mismari, stated that the LNA have secured al-Yarmouk camp and are advancing toward the Dabali military camp.[123] He also reported that the LNA have arrested pro-GNA "african mercenaries" at Tripoli Int'l Airport.[124] Shortly thereafter, al-Mismari stated that the LNA have shot down a GNA Aero L-39 Albatros that attempted to relocate from Misrata to Tripoli.[125][126]

11 April

The Chief of the GNA Tripoli Military Zone, Maj. Gen. Abdul-Basit Marwan, stated that the LNA were shelling GNA positions in southern Tripoli with BM-21 Grad MRLs.[127] The GNA claimed several airstrikes on LNA targets in Suq al-Khamis and Tarhuna city.[128] The LNA retaliated by launching an airstrike on GNA targets in the contested Ayn Zara region.[129] A GNA spokesman reported that the GNA have recaptured Wadie Alrabie, Bridge 27, Bridge of Souq Al-Ahad and Tripoli International Airport. Brig. Gen. Al-Mismari, LNA spokesperson, reported that the "things on the ground are in favour of the [Libyan National] army," adding that they have seized 14 GNA armoured vehicles and tanks, positioning themselves a mere 2 km from Tripoli's city centre after a GNA retreat. He stated that Tripoli Int'l Airport is "still a fire zone," but did not comment on who controlled it at that time. He also promised to "surprise everyone" with a plan to seize all of Tripoli.[130] The LNA released video footage, allegedly showing their fighters seized abandoned GNA vehicles, after capturing a military base in Ayn Zara and the Al-Azizya region.[citation needed] By nightfall, the GNA claimed that it negotiated the surrender of soldiers belonging to the LNA 8th brigade in Ayn Zara, after they were left without fuel or ammunition for more than a day.[131] The LNA shelled the contested town of Al Swatani.[132] An LNA spokesman stated that the Libyan National Army has issued an arrest warrant for Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the GNA.[133]

12 April

The LNA conducted an airstrike against the GNA in Abdel Samad Camp, south of Zuwarah.[134] Heavy gunfire and explosions were reported from downtown Tripoli.[135] The LNA stated that they have received major military reinforcements, that they have killed dozens of GNA fighters in the previous day's offensive, and that the LNA 9th brigade is advancing in the Al-Khalla region. It also reported that several young GNA fighters defected to the LNA.[136] The LNA air force conducted air raids against GNA targets in Wadi Al Rabie, south of Tripoli.[137] In the late afternoon, the LNA conducted airstrikes against a GNA military camp,[138] as well as an arms cache in the North-East Tripoli neighbourhood of Tajura.[139] Explosions were reported at GNA-held Mitiga International Airport. Conflicting reports emerged as to whether they were from an LNA airstrike[140] on the airport or as a result of GNA anti-aircraft guns firing.[141] The LNA claimed that residential houses and civilian buildings in LNA-held suburbs of Tripoli were subjected to bombardment by the GNA.[142] LNA spokesman, Brig. Gen. Al-Mismari, accused former President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, of sending two planes loaded with 28 fighters, as well as a large amount of weapons and ammunition, from Khartoum to GNA-held Mitiga International Airport on 28 March.[143] Fathi Bashagha, Interior Minister of the Presidential Council, stated on 12 April that the United Arab Emirates sent military equipment to the LNA at Benina International Airport in Benghazi.[144] The UNHCR called for the release and evacuation of detained refugees held in wartorn areas. The UNHCR confirmed that 728 people were still trapped in the contested Qasir Bin Gashir detention center, stating that it attempted to evacuate them to the Zintan detention center the previous day. The detainees refused to go, insisting that they be evacuated out of Libya.[145]

13 April

Speaker of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh Issa, called for a partial lifting of the international arms embargo imposed on Libya, to allow countries to legally arm the Libyan National Army.[146] He stated that the Tobruk-based government intends to hold elections after capturing Tripoli.[147] The LNA conducted several airstrikes on GNA targets in the southern party of the city, amid intense street battles between the two sides.[148][149] The World Health Organization delivered medical kits to local hospitals, but cautioned that Tripoli only has enough medical supplies for two weeks.[150] GNA forces once again took control of Al-Yarmouk camp.[151]

14 April

The LNA issued a statement, reporting that internationally designated terrorist groups were fighting alongside the GNA in Tripoli. The GNA Presidential Council denied the claims.[152] A GNA plane targeted an LNA military post in Southern Tripoli.[153] President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, met with LNA Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in Cairo.[6][7] An intensification of LNA air force activity was reported, with LNA Mi-35 helicopters and Su-22 bombers targeting numerous GNA positions in Azizya, Wadi Al Rabie, the 4th Brigade HQ, Al Sawani, Ayn Zara and Tajura.[154] The LNA reportedly made advances toward the center of Tripoli, as well as Salah Al-Din.[155] The LNA recaptured Yarmouk camp, as well as several other military camps in the area and is positioning itself toward capturing the Green Plateau of Tripoli.[156] The LNA was reported to have taken control of Spring Valley Bridge in the south of the capital.[157] The LNA sent military reinforcements to Ra's Lanuf and Es Sider oil ports, in anticipation of a counter-attack by the GNA.[158] A LNA warplane crashed in southern Tripoli.[159] The GNA claimed to have shot it down.[160] A video was later released allegedly showing missiles being fired at the plane, with one hitting the aircraft.[161] Images released from local residents purported to show both the pilot and co-pilot successfully ejecting from the aircraft and deploying their parachutes.[162] LNA Brig. Gen. Al-Mismari confirmed that the aircraft was shot down by a missile, fired by GNA forces from a suburb of Tripoli. He added that the pilot was alive and in good health.[163] He also accused a GNA militia commander of planning to bring over 350 mercenaries to the capital to fight the LNA.[164] Detainees at the contested Qasir bin Gashir detention center told Al Jazeera that they have been abandoned by their GNA guards since the previous day and were left to fend for themselves in the crossfire. They stated that there were still 728 detained refugees residing in the camp. They accused the GNA of subjecting them to "years of much torture and suffering", reiterating their desire to leave the country entirely.[165]

15 April

Heavy clashes were reported between LNA and GNA forces in Tripoli's Ayn Zara suburb.[166] The LNA military information division stated that "large reinforcements" had arrived in LNA-controlled Gharyan and were preparing to join the assault on the capital.[167] A GNA official claimed that more than 3 million books were destroyed as a result of shelling on a building belonging to the Libyan ministry of education. Both sides accused each other of the attack.[168] A new spokesperson for the GNA Presidential Council (the previous spokesman, who was born in Eastern Libya, was replaced without explanation) accused foreign governments and "statelets" of plotting to cause instability in Libya. He claimed that GNA forces were "constantly advancing on all axes", managing to "defeat the aggressor force" and that they were able to "inflict on the [LNA] aggressor militias huge casualty." He also accused the LNA of various war crimes.[169] GNA head, Fayez al-Sarraj, vowed to have all LNA leaders and commanders involved in the offensive prosecuted.[170]

16 April

A video broadcast by Sky News showed GNA forces retreating, after being targeted by the LNA with heavy weapons.[171] The LNA accused pro-GNA militias from Tripoli and Misrata of intentionally targeting civilian buildings with BM-21 Grad MRLs, in order to turn public opinion against the LNA. The LNA also released a video allegedly showing a residential house being destroyed by a GNA barrel bomb airstrike from a warplane originating from GNA-held Misrata Airport.[172][170] GNA forces reportedly retook control of the Al-Zahra bridge in southern Tripoli.[173] Reports emerged of heavy clashes between GNA and LNA forces near Azizya.[174] Several hours prior, a GNA commander had claimed that the GNA had full control over the area.[175] After sunset, Tripoli was subjected to a massive bombardment of artillery shells and missiles for several hours, targeting most areas of the city in what is reported to be the most violent bombardment the city has seen in the current civil war.[176][177][178][179] Pro-GNA media reported that at least 4 civilians had died by midnight, with over 20 more being wounded.[180] The GNA blamed the LNA for the attack.[181] The LNA stated that they had launched no missiles that day and that the bombardment was caused by pro-GNA militias,[182][183][184] whom they earlier accused of undertaking a campaign to turn public opinion against the LNA through the use of indiscriminate bombardment.[170] The UN envoy to Libya called the event a "terrible night for Tripoli".[185] A UN spokesperson noted that the attack displaced over 4,500 people – the largest single-day displacement since the beginning of the war. The spokesperson strongly condemned the attack, stating it may constitute a war crime, but did not assign blame to either party.[186]

17 April

Two GNA soldiers were killed by an LNA airstrike on Tripoli's Ayn Zara suburb.[187] The GNA air force bombed a medical post in Qasir bin Gashir.[188][189] The LNA was reported to have taken up positions 50 kilometres (50,000 m) to the east of Sirte.[190] The GNA conducted an airstrike on Wadi Al Rabea, a suburb south of Tripoli. No casualties or damage is reported.[191] The LNA's 201st battalion received reinforcements in the south of the city.[192]

18 April

Heavy clashes occurred between GNA and LNA forces, after GNA units attempted to advance towards the Saadiya area. The LNA air force conducted multiple airstrikes on GNA targets in the area.[193] LNA jets also conducted several air raids against GNA targets in Libya's Wadi al Rabie suburb.[194]

20 April

LNA drone aircraft, allegedly supplied by United Arab Emirates, have struck the GNA military camp in Sabaa district, south of Tripoli city center.[195]

30 April

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan voiced his support for the GNA, saying that Turkey would "spare no effort in confronting the conspiracy against the Libyan people."[196] GNA forces captured the settlement of El-Sbeaa (Espiaa), south of Tripoli.[197]

MayEdit

7 May

On 7 May, an aircraft was shot down near al-Hira and the pilot was detained by the LNA. A video circulating on online social media was claimed by the LNA to show the pilot, who said that he was from Portugal. The Portuguese Ministry of Defence stated that the pilot was not a Portuguese soldier.[32] The GNA stated that the downed aircraft was not one of its own. According to the The Libya Observer, an anonymous military source claimed that the aircraft was an LNA plane downed by friendly fire.[198] The LNA confiscated hand-grenades from the downed plane.[citation needed]

8 May

A clearly marked ambulance carrying the Director of the Tripoli Ambulance and Medical Emergency Services and two medical personnel was destroyed in Twaisha in Qasr bin Ghashir in Tripoli on 8 May by the LNA. The Director lost his legs and as of 8 May 2019 remained in critical conditions. The two medical staff were injured. The representative in Libya of the World Health Organization, Syed Jaffar Hussain, said that the attack against the ambulance was a "shocking and intolerable violation of international humanitarian law."[199]

10 May

A number of extremist armed groups announced that would not bound by any cease-fire agreement that may be signed between GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and LNA commander Khalifa Haftar. Al-Samoud Brigade from Misurata, led by Salah Badi who is under U.S. and U.N. sanctions,[200] said: "the true rebels will not accept any agreements with the war criminal Haftar," asserting that their fight against the LNA forces is "Jihad for God that will not stop until complete victory".[201]

11 May

Haftar advanced in Tripoli's southern districts, most notably the al-Aziziya area.[202] The LNA also carried out air strikes on several militia positions in the Wadi al-Rabih and Ain Zara areas.[202] Photos also were released showing the LNA advancing towards Sirte.[202]

13 May

By May 13, the GNA announced that Haftar's forces occupied both the Tripoli Airport and Gharyan, which were struck by the GNA air force.[203] Haftar's forces also occupied the areas in Tripoli Airport Road, Qasir Benghashir and near Gharyan as well as in Sooq Al-Khamis, which were also targeted by the GNA.[203] Meanwhile, Haftar's LNA forces bombed Al-Zawiya city to the west of Tripoli, causing massive material damage.[203]

14 May

By May 14, the LNA announced that their ground defenses shot down a military aircraft of the GNA in the Jufra District, in central Libya.[204]

20 May

On 20 May, the LNA received an arms shipment of Jordanian KADDB al-mared APCs,[205] as well as a shipment of caiman MRAPs.[206]

JuneEdit

3 June

The LNA spokesman announced that during recent clashes in southern Tripoli 31 GNA fighters were killed and 21 military vehicles were captured by the LNA.[207]

13 June

The LNA spokesman announced that LNA forces successfully shot at a GNA warplane which was firing at their forces in Al-Dafiniya, west of Tripoli.[208] The warplane took off from Misrata Airbase, and later crashed approximately 20 km from Misrata as the pilot was returning to the airbase following the incident.[208] The pilot was also killed after the plane crashed.[208] The GNA also acknowledged that a plane crashed, but alleged that it was due to a mechanical failure.[208]

26 June

The GNA announced that it had captured the town of Gharyan from the LNA.[209] Dozens of LNA soldiers were killed in fighting in the town, and at least 18 others were reportedly captured by the GNA.[210] The GNA's airforce attacked convoys of LNA troops as they withdrew from the area.[209]

JulyEdit

3 July
 
GNA forces at Tripoli, July 2019

An airstrike by the LNA hit the Tajoura Detention Center outside Tripoli, Libya, while hundreds of people were inside the facility. It killed at least 53 of them and injured 130 others.[211] The detention center was being used as a holding facility for migrants and refugees trying to reach Europe when a storage hangar that it used as a residential facility was hit by the airstrike.[211]

6 July

It was reported that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Libya had joined the LNA in its offensive.[3]

17 July

A parliamentary member for Benghazi, Seham Sergiwa, was detained by the LNA 106th Brigade in a raid at her home in which the 106th Brigade also wounded her husband and son and prevented them from having visitors in hospital.[212] As of 23 July 2019, Sergewa's location remained unknown.[213]

25 July

The first 1000 of 4000 planned arrivals of Sudanese Rapid Support Forces (RSF), veterans of the Darfur genocide and the 3 June 2019 Khartoum massacre,[214] arrived by 25 July in Libya, to relieve LNA troops guarding oil installations and free them for attacking Tripoli.[215]

29 July

On 29 July 2019, Ghassan Salamé, head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), proposed a three-point Libyan peace plan to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), which would "require consensus in [the UNSC] and amongst the Member States who exert influence on the ground" and require Libyans "to listen to their better angels" rather than "[fight] the wars of others and in so doing [destroy] their country."[216] Salamé's plan includes a truce between the Government of National Accord (GNA) and Libyan National Army (LNA) and their associated militias on Eid al-Adha, along with confidence-building measures such as prisoner exchanges, releasing arbitrarily detained prisoners and exchanging the remains of victims of the conflict;[216] an international meeting of countries implicated in the conflict, to stop the fighting, implement the legally existing arms embargo, and promote the following of international human rights law;[216] and a Libyan meeting similar to the originally planned Libyan National Conference.[216]

AugustEdit

11 August

A truce took place on Eid al-Adha that UNSMIL head Salamé described as a "substantial reduction in violence along the main fronts in southern Tripoli and elsewhere" with "some violations" and that "broadly speaking, the truce held for the duration of the Eid festivities." The truce constituted the first stage of the 3-phase Salamé peace plan.[217]

20-29 August

The LNA launched several failed attempts to capture Gharyan.[218][219][220][221][222][223]

SeptemberEdit

13 September

GNA claimed they killed six United Arab Emirates soldiers during airstrikes on Al-Jufra airbase. However, the UAE announced that six of its soldiers were killed in a car collision in Yemen.[27][28][29]

Strategic analysisEdit

According to the Middle East Institute, the LNA's offensive against Tripoli has resulted in an increased destabilization of Libya, allowing the local forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to regain some strength in southern Libya. As a result of the fighting between the LNA and GNA-backed militias, both did less to suppress ISIL while creating new power vacuums which radical Jihadists were likely to expolit.[224]

CasualtiesEdit

The UN's World Health Organization reported 1,093 dead by 15 July, of which 987 were confirmed as combatants and 106 as civilians. 5,752 people had also been wounded.[35]

Human rights abusesEdit

Legal aspects and documentationEdit

Under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1970, the International Criminal Court (ICC) can carry out investigations and prosecutions into claims of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide if the crimes are claimed to occur in Libya on or later than 15 February 2011.[41] As of 6 April 2019, the ICC had two outstanding warrants for the arrest of LNA commander Mahmoud al-Werfalli, for involvement in the alleged killings in and near Benghazi of 33 people during June 2016 to July 2017[41] and for allegedly executing ten people "in front of a cheering crowd" in Benghazi between 23 and 25 January 2018.[225] In reference to the 2019 Western Libya offensive, ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated on 11 April that the ICC "[wouldn't] hesitate" to issue arrest warrants for people suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity.[226] On 16 April, Bensouda gave more details, stating that both those directly committing war crimes in Libya and their commanders would be liable to prosecution by the ICC, including anyone "ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing in any other manner to the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court".[42] According to Human Rights Watch, both the GNA and LNA military forces had prior records of human rights abuses, with "a well-documented record of indiscriminate attacks on civilians, summary executions of captured fighters, and arbitrary detention" by LNA forces and evidence of abuses of civilians by GNA forces, prior to 4 April 2019 attack on Tripoli.[227]

Al-Sarraj stated on 17 April that the GNA would provide documentation to the ICC regarding 16 April Grad shelling of residential areas[184] that killed at least seven people and wounded 17,[228] for which he claimed Haftar was responsible.[229] On 2 May, a spokesperson for the GNA, Muhanad Younis, stated that administrative responsibility had been allocated for documenting war crimes during the Western Libya offensive and providing the documentation to the ICC.[230]

Claims of war crimesEdit

The family of Firas al-Kikli claimed on 11 April 2019 that LNA forces took him prisoner and later killed him. Images of al-Kikli's mutilated body circulated on social media.[231]

During 15–17 April 2019, rocket attacks using inaccurate technology occurred against three densely populated residential areas in and near the Abu Salim area of Tripoli, and were interpreted by Amnesty International (AI) as "unlawful attacks that could amount to war crimes".[232] Based on information from witnesses and satellite imaging, AI stated that those launching the rockets "failed to take necessary precautions to protect civilian lives and civilian objects". AI identified the areas hit as Hay al-Intissar, in which five rockets hit five homes killing five adults and wounding a girl; Hay Salahaddin; and the "Kikla buildings", where three rockets hit a construction company, a residential building and the ground, wounding two people.[232] Thomson Reuters journalists stated that the 16 April Grad shelling of residential areas killed at least seven people and wounded 17.[184][228][229] AI found no evidence for any military targets in any of the attacks and could not "conclusively determine" which armed group was responsible for the attacks. Abu Salim residents attributed the attack to the LNA.[232] Magdalena Mughrabi of AI recommended on the basis of the attacks that the ICC investigate possible war crimes by all parties involved in the 2019 Western Libya offensive. She stated, "The use of artillery and other imprecise weapons such as GRAD-style rockets in civilian areas is prohibited under international humanitarian law and such indiscriminate attacks can amount to war crimes."[232]

On 2 May, BBC Arabic published its enquiry into apparent war crimes carried out during the attack on Tripoli that had been widely circulated on Facebook. BBC Arabic reported on the murder of three prisoners of war and on a special forces group of the LNA that distributed videos and photos of mutilated bodies.[233]

On 18 May, a station of the Great Man-Made River project was attacked by an armed group, putting at risk water supplies to Tripoli and Gharyan. Maria do Valle Ribeiro, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, said that as an attack against critical civilian infrastructure, the incident could qualify as a war crime.[234] The attackers claimed to be Haftar supporters[235] and their commander was claimed to be Khalifa Ehnaish, loyal to Haftar.[234] The LNA denied command responsibility for the attack.[235][234]

On 27 July 2019, an airstrike on a field hospital near the capital Tripoli killed five doctors, and wounded seven other people. The attack is believed to have been pulled off by forces loyal to Marshal Khalifa Haftar.[236]

On 4 August, an airstrike by the LNA against a wedding in Murzuk killed 43 people and injured 60.[237] The European External Action Service commented on the civilian deaths at Murzuk and referred to the legal principle that "indiscriminate attacks on densely populated residential areas" as possibly constituting war crimes.[238]

Legal casesEdit

On 26 June 2019, four Libyan families filed a lawsuit in the United States (US) federal court against Haftar for war crimes that took place during the 2019 Western Libya offensive, seeking US$125 million in damages and compensation. The lawsuit alleged that Haftar was responsible for "torture, mass murder, indiscriminate destruction of civilian property and genocide".[239]

ReactionsEdit

DomesticEdit

Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, also the chairman of the GNA's Presidential Council, accused Haftar of betraying them and launching a coup d'état.[47] He believed that his previous meetings with Haftar in earlier months had been bringing genuine progress to a political solution. He stated that "When we hosted the UN Secretary General in Tripoli, we were surprised to hear about Haftar's military mobilization after the progress of the political solution in the country." Sarraj also stated that the government will defend the capital.[240] On 17 April, the GNA Presidential Council stated their categorical refusal of any dialogue that involves the participation of LNA Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.[241]

Colonel Mohamed Gnounou, spokesman of the GNA army since 6 April, announced that the Libyan Army under the Presidential Council was advancing on Haftar's forces to defeat the coup. He also said that "This attack is a surprising one that destroyed the Libyans' hopes for democracy as all of them were preparing for the upcoming national conference in Ghadames."[86]

On 7 April, the deputy chief of the Libyan Presidential Council, Ali Faraj Qatrani, defected to the LNA, resigned from his position within the GNA, and stated that GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj was "controlled by militias". He expressed support for the LNA offensive on Tripoli, stating that it would rid the city of "terrorists and criminal gangs".[242][243]

The Libyan Popular National Movement, which is considered an illegal group by the GNA, declared in a press statement that they support the army's move to end the "militia rule in Tripoli" and salute the sacrifices of the sons of the Libyan Armed Forces.[244]

On 16 April, The advisory council of the Al-Barghata tribe announced its support of the LNA offensive and rejected any foreign interference in Libyan affairs.[245]

Street protestsEdit

On Friday 12 April, two thousand people protested on the streets of Tripoli and Misrata opposing the LNA military attack on Tripoli. Protestors objected against what they claimed was backing for the attack by France, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, with Misrata protestors burning a French flag.[246][60] The following Friday on 19 April 2000 people protested in Martyrs' Square, Tripoli, protesting both against Haftar and against foreign power support for Haftar, in particular against that of France.[247][248] Some of the 19 April protestors wore reflective vests that Agence France Presse associated with the yellow vests movement. One of these carried a poster stating, "Surprised by the French response to the attack on Tripoli" ("Surpris par la conduite française face à l'attaque de Tripoli").[248] Protests in Martyrs' Square continued on 26 April, the third Friday in a row.[249]

Street protests against Haftar and the LNA continued in Tripoli and Misrata on 3 May.[250] Tripoli protestors directly criticised what they claimed was French support for Haftar and the LNA, with some carrying posters showing French president Emmanuel Macron crossed out in red. Several protestors wore yellow vests to symbolise their opposition to French authorities.[251]

Municipal electionsEdit

The head of UNSMIL, Ghassan Salamé, complimented Libyan citizens and the Libyan Central Commission of Municipal Council Elections for holding local elections on 20 April in Brak al-Shati, Edri al-Shati, al-Rahibat, Ubari, al-Garda al-Shati, al-Shwairif and Zaltan despite the intense military conflict taking place.[252] Elections continued in Sabha on 27 April but were blocked by the LNA in Sabratha and Sorman.[253]

InternationalEdit

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated on Twitter that he hoped for confrontation around Tripoli to be avoided and that the UN was committed to facilitating a political solution. On 5 April, the UN Security Council called on Haftar to stop all movements of his forces.[254]

On 4 April, the United States, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, France, and Italy in a joint statement condemned the offensive.[255] On 6 April the G7 countries stated there was no military solution to Libya's power struggle and urged Haftar to halt the advance on Tripoli.[256]

On 5 April, Egypt expressed its deep concern over the conflict in Tripoli and urged all sides to avoid escalation. Egypt also announced its commitment to UN efforts to find a political solution to the Libyan Crisis adding that a political solution is the only option.[257] On 9 April, Egypt expressed support for the Libyan National Army and its push to dismantle all remaining militias, and also cautioned against foreign intervention in the conflict.[258] On 14 April, President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, met with LNA Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in Cairo[6][7] and announced his support for the LNA's counterterrorism efforts, stating that "the fight toward terrorism"..."allows the establishment of a stable and sovereign civil state, and will start the reconstruction of Libya in various fields."[259]

On the same day, Russia called on all sides to come to an agreement.[260] The UN stated that the planned Libyan national conference to organise elections would go ahead regardless of the offensive, in Ghadamis on 14–16 April 2019.[261]

On 7 April, the United States withdrew an unspecified contingent of United States Africa Command forces from Libya.[262][263] India evacuated 15 Central Reserve Police Force peacekeepers to Tunisia.[264][263] The UN called for a two-hour ceasefire to evacuate wounded soldiers and civilians.[90][2] Meanwhile, Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have called on the LNA to end their advance on Tripoli, stating that any such resolution should apply to all parties and not just the LNA in particular.[265][266]

On 9 April, UNSMIL stated that the Libyan National Conference, an upcoming peace conference in Ghadames, which would have attempted to create a roadmap to new elections, was postponed due to the fighting.[267] The conference was previously scheduled for 14–16 April.[268]

Tunisia increased security on its border with Libya since the start of the offensive.[269] On 10 April, Tunisia fully closed the Ras Ajdir border crossing with Libya.[270]

On 19 April, the White House announced that the U.S. President had spoken with Khalifa Haftar on Monday, 15 April, stating that Donald Trump "recognized Field Marshal Haftar's significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya's oil resources."[271]

In a joint statement France, Britain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, United States and Italy on July 16 called for an immediate end of hostilities around Tripoli and warned of attempts by "terrorist groups" to take advantage of the political void in Libya.[272]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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