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Iran Press TV

Libyan army advances near key rebel stronghold

Iran Press TV

Sunday, 19 April 2020 7:59 AM

Libyan government forces have advanced near a key stronghold of rebel militia under the command of renegade general Khalifa Haftar on the outskirts of the capital, Tripoli.

Muhammad Gununu, a spokesman for government forces, said the Libyan troops launched an all-out military operation early on Saturday and advanced toward the strategic town of Tarhuna, about 65 kilometers southeast of Tripoli, seizing several towns and capturing dozens of rebels on the way.

Gununu said the forces overran a rebel camp in al-Hawatim area near Tarhouna, killed over 12 rebels, and captured more than 100 others, also seizing armored vehicles, tanks, and mortar launchers.

Residents said the Libyan army troops had yet to enter and take over Tarhuna but they had heard loud blasts and the sound of intensive clashes reverberating across an outlying area of the strategic town for hours.

The forces have also been trying to capture the al-Watiya airbase, 125 kilometers west of Tripoli, which is another strategic rebel foothold.

The Libyan army has in recent days retaken a string of strategic cities located west of Tripoli, including Sabratha, Surman, and al-Ajaylat.

The advance on Tarhuna comes as fighting has over the past weeks intensified near the Libyan capital, which is the seat of the country's internationally-recognized government headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.

Since April last year, rebel forces under the command of Haftar have been fighting in an all-out offensive to capture Tripoli and unseat the government but have remained bogged down on the city's outskirts.

Fresh clashes around Tripoli escalated after the rebels breached a March 21 humanitarian truce aimed at facilitating efforts to combat the coronavirus outbreak in the war-torn country.

The breach compelled the Libyan government to launch an operation on March 25 to push the rebels back.

According to the United Nations (UN), hundreds of people have been killed and more than 200,000 have been displaced since Haftar launched his campaign to capture Tripoli.

Libya slid into turmoil in 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Since 2014, two rival seats of power have emerged in the North African country – the United Nations (UN)-recognized government of Sarraj in Tripoli, and another group based in the eastern city of Tobruk, supported militarily by Haftar's rebels.

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