Heavy Fighting Rips Through Tripoli As Libya's Gen. Haftar Renews Offensive

After few week lull in Gen. Khalifa Haftar's Libya National Army (LNA) advance on Tripoli, fighting has once again ripped through the Libyan capital city, in an ongoing renewed civil war between parallel governments in east and west of the country which has now killed over 500 and pushed 75,000 out of their homes, and has again ramped up the migrant crisis in Europe. 

Reuters reports, "Heavy fighting raged in the Libyan capital on Saturday as eastern forces made a new push to advance inside the city controlled by the internationally recognized government." The LNA's new push began Saturday morning in a southern suburb, and continues the siege which began in early April, and has involved tanks, mortars, heavy urban fighting, and warplanes. 

Recent clashes near Tripoli's old airport. Image source: Al Jazeera

Gen. Haftar  who solidified control of Eastern Libya over the past two years and swept through the south in January, is seeking full control over Tripoli which would secure his hold of the entire country and its vital oil resources, of which he already controls a major chunk of in the east and south. 

He's long been described by many analysts as "the CIA's man in Libya" — given he spent a couple decades living in exile a mere few minutes from CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia during Gaddafi's rule.

Last month, the White House went from a position of nominal support for the UN-backed government in Tripoli (now under attack by Haftar), to openly backing Haftar for the first time. A White House statement said Trump “recognized Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources" during a phone call with the "renegade" general. 

Gen. Khalifa Haftar, head of the Benghazi-based Libya National Army (LNA)

Other countries like France and the UAE are also significant backers of Haftar, with the latter coming under fire for shipping banned weapons to the Libyan warlord. However, awkwardly these and other countries stand against the majority UN recognition of the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli as the legitimate authority over Libya and its prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj. 

Interestingly, Gen. Haftar has just publicly accused the UN of seeking to partition in Libya in condemning his attempts to take the capital. Haftar accused the head of U.N. mission to Libya, Ghassan Salame, of not being impartial, while dismissing proposals for a ceasefire, according to Reuters.

“Partition of Libya is maybe what our adversaries want. This is maybe what Ghassan Salame also wants,” Haftar said. 

However, the reality is that Libya descended into anarchy and warring factions across the four corners of the country the moment of its "liberation" by the US and NATO, which fought a regime change war against Muammar Gaddafi.

The White House has lately cast the conflict brought on by Haftar's blitz across the country as part of "ongoing counterterrorism efforts" toward the end of achieving "peace and stability in Libya."