Libya — GNA, LNA Fight Over Sirte

  • Egypt, which supported Haftar as the troops approached Sirte, announced that it could send troops to Libya in order not to lose the city.
  • On Sunday, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement to support Sisi.
  • Sirte sits between Tripoli, headquarters of the GNA, and Benghazi, base of the LNA.

In Libya, the operation by the forces under the Government of National Accord (GNA) to retake the city of Sirte back from the hands of General Khalifa Haftar continues. Rejecting Haftar’s call for a ceasefire, the Tripoli government, supported by Turkey, say they will not sit at the table without Sirte.

Sirte is a city in Libya. It is located south of the Gulf of Sirte, between Tripoli and Benghazi. It is famously known for its battles, ethnic groups, and loyalty to Muammar Gaddafi.

Egypt, which supported Haftar as the troops approached Sirte, announced that it could send troops to Libya in order not to lose the city. Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi warned the military of the GNA in Tripoli on Saturday not to move beyond their current positions.

Visiting Matruh Base near the Libyan border, Sisi said, “Sirte and Cufra are the red lines.” Sisis instructed the army to “be ready for cross-border operations.” On Sunday, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement to support Sisi:

“[The Cabinet] reiterates the Kingdom’s assertion that the security of the Arab Republic of Egypt is an integral part of the security of the Kingdom and the entire Arab nation, and its standing alongside Egypt in its right to defend its borders and people from extremism and terrorist militias and their supporters in the region.”

On June 6, General Haftar went to Cairo and met with Sisi and called for a ceasefire. The cease fire condition was “GNA troops not advancing and foreign forces leaving the country.” The GNA, and its biggest supporter, Turkey, closed the door to the ceasefire. Russia also sent a delegation to Ankara to cease negotiations with Turkey in the same period.

At that time, Turkey’s special representative to Libya, Mr. Emrullah Isler, said the ongoing ceasefire talks between Russia and Turkey is not yet a reason for failing to get results, “The real issue between Turkey and Russia, the Libyan government is the fact that the rotation of Sirte and Cufra take from the table,” he explained.

Why is Sirte So Important?

The Second Libyan Civil War is an ongoing conflict among rival factions seeking control of Libya. The conflict is mostly between the House of Representatives, elected in 2014 with a low turnout, relocated to Tobruk, which appointed Marshal Khalifa Haftar as commander-in-chief of the Libyan National Army with the mission of restoring its sovereignty over the whole of Libyan territory, and the Government of National Accord, led by Fayez al-Sarraj, based in the capital Tripoli and established after failed military coups and the relocation of the House of Representatives to Tobruk.

The question of who controls Sirte is very important for both sides, in terms of the course of the civil war, in terms of its strategic position, and in terms of economic reasons. Sirte is located between Tripoli, where GNA headquarters are based, and Benghazi, a base of Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).

It became a region where Islamist militias settled for a long time after the former leader, Muammar Gaddafi, was overthrown.  The city was taken over by ISIS at the beginning of 2015. However, at the end of 2016, the GNA regained control with the help of US, Italian and British fighter jets.

However, the attacks carried out by the groups leftover from ISIS provided Haftar with the appropriate environment for the operation, using the motive “Clean the city from Islamist terrorists.” The city, where Gaddafi was born, where his tribe lived and developed during the Gaddafi era, preserved a battalion made up of members of the Sirteli tribe.

This battalion changed loyalty to Haftar in January 2020, and the city fell under Haftar’s control within a few hours. That same day, Turkey, due to the security agreement signed with the GNA, began to make military equipment aid in Libya. After that date, Haftar began to advance rapidly towards Tripoli, 370 kilometers west.

On June 4, the GNA announced that it took complete control of Sirte. Troops attached to Haftar began to withdraw from Sirte to the west and south. Two days later, on the day that Haftar went to Cairo and called for a ceasefire with Sisi, the GNA announced that it started the “Victory Road” operation to take Sirte back.

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Benedict Kasigara

I have been working as a freelance editor/writer since 2006. My specialist subject is film and television having worked for over 10 years from 2005 during which time I was the editor of the BFI Film and Television.

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