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Iran Press TV

Haftar forces preparing for new push to capture Tripoli: Report

Iran Press TV

Sun Jul 21, 2019 08:06AM

Libya's UN-recognized government says forces loyal to strongman General Khalifa Haftar appear to be preparing for a new offensive to capture the capital city Tripoli.

Haftar's initial offensive launched on April 4 to take the city from the Government of National Accord (GNA) failed to break through Tripoli's defenses.

His forces are currently bogged down on the capital's southern outskirts, but the renegade general has defied a truce call by the United Nations and ordered his troops not to relent in their offensive..

The GNA said on its Facebook page Saturday that it is "concerned over reports, confirmed by the UN and the media, on preparations for a new military escalation".

Videos circulated on social media in recent days show columns of military vehicles belonging to Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), trucking towards the south of the capital.

Via a post published on one of its official Facebook pages on Friday, LNA urged young people in Tripoli to join Haftar's forces to eliminate all militias allied with the Tripoli-based government.

Haftar's offensive has upended efforts to stabilize Libya and threatened to plunge the country into a full-blown civil war.

It has left nearly 1,093 people dead, and over 5,750 wounded, according to the UN's World Health Organization. The fighting has also forced more than 100,000 people to flee their homes.

In his offensive, Haftar is supported by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and France.

US President Donald Trump has also "recognized Field Marshal Haftar's significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya's oil resources," according to the White House.

European countries, including Italy and France, have taken a strong interest in Libya, both because of its natural resources and its status as a leading departure point for refugees attempting to enter Europe across the Mediterranean Sea.

The GNA has said France has been blocking resolutions at the UN Security Council, the European Union, and other international organizations opposing Haftar's push to capture Tripoli.

In a tweet on Saturday, the United Nations mission in Libya said it was "doing its utmost with all local and foreign actors to avoid military escalation and to ensure protection of civilians".

Libya has been plunged into chaos since 2011 when NATO's intervention in the country's popular uprising led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi and his execution by unruly fighters.

Since then, the North African country has been divided between two rival governments – one located in the east and the other in the west of the country and each backed by an array of rival militias.

The GNA is recognized by the UN as the official government of Libya, while the other government based in the eastern city of Tobruk has the support of forces loyal to Haftar.

Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC), based in Tripoli, said Saturday production at its 290,000 barrels per day El Sharara oilfield was offline due to a full-scale investigation into suspected closed valves in the Hamada area.

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