AL-SISI SAYS EGYPT HAS RIGHT TO INTERVENE IN LIBYA, VOWS TO PROTECT SIRTE & AL-JUFRA (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

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Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on June 20 that any Egyptian intervention in Libya has an international legitimacy and ordered his army to be prepared for missions inside or outside Egypt.

Al-Sisi made his remarks while he was inspecting Egyptian troops in the western region. The president toured an air base near Egypt’s border with Libya, where thousands of troops as well as state of the art weapon systems are deployed.

“Be prepared to carry out any mission, here inside our borders – or if necessary, outside our borders,” the President said in a speech to his troops, according to Reuters.

The Egyptian President said his country is working to protect its western border, support security and stability in Libya and stop the bloodshed there.

المتحدث الرسمي لرئاسة الجمهورية

-Spokesman of the Egyptian Presidency5 hours ago

تفقد السيد الرئيس الوحدات المقاتلة للقوات الجوية بالمنطقة الغربية العسكرية صباح اليوم

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Al-Sisi went on to call for a ceasefire between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and the Government of National Accord (GNA), warning the latter from attacking the port city of Sirte and the al-Jufra Air Base.

“Let’s stop at the line both sides reached in the western and eastern regions and start a ceasefire … The line of Sirte, al-Jufra is a red line for Egypt and its national security,” al-Sisi said.

The President also revealed that Egypt is ready to train, equip and arm Libyan tribesman in order to defend and secure their own land.

Hinting at the growing Turkish intervention in Libya, al-Sisi called on all foreign forces to immediately withdraw, saying that “illegitimate interventions” are spreading terrorism in the region.

In the last few months, Turkey stepped up its support for the GNA enabling it to secure major gains in northwest Libya. In response, the Egyptian military amassed a large force on the Libyan border. Since then, battles have winded down in Libya, especially around Sirte.

Egypt appears to be determined to stop Turkish expansion in Libya. Nevertheless, Cairo will not likely employ a direct military intervention option before exhausting all diplomatic options.

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Massive Libyan Army convoy reaches Sirte for showdown with Turkish-backed forces: video

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By News Desk -2020-06-20

BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:10 A.M.) – A massive Libyan National Army (LNA) convoy was filmed this week heading to the Sirte front-lines from a major showdown with the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) forces.

According to the Libyan National Army, their forces deployed to the western countryside of Sirte, where they later took up positions along the front-lines with the Government of National Accord forces and their allies.

A video showing the massive military convoy heading to Sirte was released on RT Arabic’s YouTube channel on Friday; it showed hundreds of vehicles and a large number of soldiers making their way to the strategic port-city.

The Government of National Accord is preparing to storm the city of Sirte for the second time this month, as they seek to reverse all of the Libyan National Army’s gains that were made this year.

Sirte was first captured by Government of National Accord forces during their campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh) in northern Libya in 2016; however, they would later lose the city in early 2020, when the Libyan National Army launched a surprise offensive there.

The GNA has since been able to retake several areas in northern Libya, including a number of cities and towns near the capital, Tripoli.

OVER 2,600 TURKISH-BACKED SYRIAN MILITANTS HAVE RETURNED FROM LIBYA – REPORT

Over 2,600 Turkish-Backed Syrian Militants Have Returned From Libya – Report

More than 2,600 Turkish-backed Syrian militants have returned from Libya where they were fighting for the Government of National Accord (GNA), the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on June 19.

“The returnees have received all of their financial entitlements after the recent advance by GNA forces in Libya,” the monitoring group’s report reads.

At least 12,100 Syrian militants are still present in Libya. According to the SOHR, Turkey is now working to deploy even more militants there. More than 1,800 Syrians are currently receiving military training in camps inside Turkey ahead of deployment.

The SOHR also revealed that 300 Syrian militants fighting in GNA forces are minors, between the ages of 14 and 18. Most of these minors were recruited by the Turkish-backed Sultan Murad Division.

Despite the relative calm in Libya, the remaining Syrian militants there are still taking part in combat operations. In the last few days, at least 17 were killed. This raised the number of Syrians killed while fighting in Libya to 417.

The deployment of Syrian militants in Libya boosted the offensive capabilities of GNA forces, enabling them to make gains in northwest Libya.

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BATTLE OF SIRTE

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The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and Syrian militant groups with a direct support from Turkey are preparing for a new attempt to capture the port city of Sirte from the Libyan National Army (LNA).

After the first failed attempt earlier this month, Turkish-backed factions have deployed additional reinforcements to the frontline west of the city. This included artillery pieces, battle tanks and a large number of pickups equipped with weapons. LNA warplanes conducted several strikes on GNA military columns moving from Misrata in the area of Abu Qurayn. However, the existing LNA air power appeared to be not enough to stop the military buildup of Turkish-led forces. The intensity of LNA airstrikes also decreased, especially in the countryside of Tripoli, due to the Turkish efforts to set up an air defense network in the GNA-held part of coastline.

Over the past year, the Turkish military has sent a number of KORKUT self-propelled anti-aircraft guns and MIM-23 Hawk medium-range air defense systems to Libya. These systems as well as electronic warfare capabilities of the deployed Turkish military contingent played an important role in breaking of the LNA siege of Tripoli and allowed Turkish combat drones operate relatively freely in its countryside. Now, Turkey is likely seeking to employ a similar approach to besiege and seize Sirte.

The city, with the estimated population of about 128,000, is an important logistical hub and Libya’s main oil export port. In the beginning of January, the LNA led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar shut down export terminals and stopped operations of pipelines from El-Sharara and El-Feel oilfields cutting off the exports of the Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation by about 92%. Then, the LNA said that the GNA used the revenues obtained thanks to oil export to pay for Turkish weapons and Turkey-deployed mercenaries. This move demonstrated the determination of the LNA and the democratically-elected House of Representatives based in Torbuk to push forward their project of the united Libya regardless possible decrease of financial revenues from oil business.

Now, Ankara and its partners in Tripoli are eager to capture Sirte and restart a full-scale oil export under their direct control. If Turkish-led forces achieve this goal, Ankara will get an access to an additional source of revenue to compensate, at least partly, its expenditures for the Libyan intervention.

For the LNA leadership, the possible withdrawal from Sirte will mark the full collapse of its plan to unite Libya under a single administration. So, Haftar forces are also preparing for the battle.

EGYPT SENDS BATTLE TANKS TO LIBYAN BORDER AS HAFTAR FORCES RETREAT UNDER TURKISH STRIKES

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After capturing Tripoli International Airport last week, GNA forces and Syrian militant groups with a direct support from the Turkish Armed Forces forced the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Khalifa Haftar to retreat from a number of villages and towns including Tarhuna and Dawun.

Retreating LNA fighters left behind dozens of weapons and pieces of military equipment, including T-55 and T-62 battle tanks and howitzers. Pro-GNA sources also showcased a destroyed Pantsir-S system, which the LNA had received from the UAE. The town of Tarhuna was looted and a large number of buildings there were destroyed by Turkish-backed forces. The residents of this town are known for their support to the LNA. A large number of civilians fled the town with the retreating LNA units.

On June 6, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced a new diplomatic initiative for Libya proposing a ceasefire from June 6 and the resumption of the political process. Egypt alongside with the UAE are key backers of the LNA.

Apparently, Anakra and the GNA saw this move as a sign of the weakness. The GNA even announced an advance on the port city of Sirte controlled by the LNA. However, Turkish-led forces failed to reach the city on June 6 and June 7 suffering casualties. According to local sources, over 30 Turkish proxies were killed. A Turkish Bayraktar TB2 combat UAV was also shot down. In response, Turkey shot down a Wing Loong II combat UAV operated by the LNA and conducted a series of airstrikes on LNA positions near Sirte. On June 8, the GNA and its allies conducted another attempt to advance on Sirte. Clashes are ongoing.

Egypt reacted to these developments by sending reinforcements to the border with Libya. At least 2 large columns with Egyptian battle tanks were filmed moving towards the border. The geographic location of Egypt allows its leadership, if there is a political will and a strong decision, to freely employ its ground and air forces to support the LNA in the conflict against Turkish proxies. Cairo could opt to choose the strategy of direct actions if Turkish-led forces capture Sirte threatening the LNA heartland in northeastern Libya.

The modern military political leadership of Turkey, in particular President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his inner circle, has views on the needed structure of the Islamic world, which are to a great extent similar to those of the Muslim Brotherhood. For example, the Muslim Brotherhood thinks that the leading Islamic states should be headed by leaders with a rather strong religious agenda.

Egypt traditionally has a complex and balanced cooperation of the religious and secular parts of their society. In the view of the Muslim Brotherhood, the religious factor should be developed further, even at the cost of the interests of the secular part of the society. This goes contrary to the current reality in Egypt, which is ruled by relatively secular leaders. Furthermore, the Muslim Brotherhood and armed groups affiliated with it are considered terrorist organizations in Egypt. Therefore, Cairo sees the expansion of forces ideologically close to the organization as a direct threat to its national security.

Battle For Tripoli Airport 2.0

South Front

02.06.2020 

A new round of intense fighting has broken out between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and Turkish-backed forces near Tripoli.

During the past few days, fighters from the Government of National Accord (GNA) and Syrian militants supported by the Turkish military carried out several attacks on Tripoli’s Airport attempting to capture it from the LNA. At one point, Turkish-led forces even entered the territory of the airport but failed to secure their gains and were forced to retreat. The key facility south of Tripoli remained in the hands of LNA troops. As a result of the clashes, the GNA captured a T-72 battle tank, destroyed at least 2 LNA vehicles and lost about a dozen fighters.

Seeking to compensate this military setback, pro-Turkish sources published photos of what they described as a list of Russian mercenaries written in Russian captured south of Tripoli. However, the list appeared to be only Arab names roughly translated into Russian.

Pro-LNA sources say that the GNA and its backers are pushing the propaganda about the supposedly major involvement of Russian military contractors in the conflict to draw the audience’s attention from the fact that Turkey deployed about 10,000 Syrian militants to support the GNA. Recently, Turkey even started supplying its Syrian proxies and GNA fighters with M60 battle tanks.

In response to these attacks, the LNA Air Force intensified airstrikes on positions of Turkish-backed forces near Gharyan, Al-Aziziyah, Ayn Zarah and Misrata. Pro-LNA sources also claimed that at least 3 Turkish-supplied unmanned aerial vehicles were shot down over Bani Waled and another near Tripoli Airport.

At the same time, LNA units captured from Turkish-backed forces the village of Al-Asaba south of Gharyan. According to reports, the LNA is planning to develop the advance in the direction of Kikla in order to secure a link with its forces deployed southwest of Tripoli. Another priority target is Gharyan itself. If the LNA is able to retake it from the GNA, it will be able to stabilize the frontline after the recent setbacks in the battle against Turkish-backed forces and relaunch the advance on Tripoli. On the other hand, if the GNA keeps Gharyan in its hands, it will be able to continue pressuring LNA units at the Tripoli Airport and expand a buffer zone around the city of Tripoli.

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RUSSIAN WARPLANES IN LIBYA

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27.05.2020 

The US has finally discovered whom to blame for the ongoing escalation of the conflict in Libya.

On May 26, the US African Command (AFRICOM) claimed that Russia had deployed warplanes to Libya to support the Libyan National Army of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. It said that Russia is expanding its “military footprint in Africa using government-supported mercenary groups like Wagner”. According to the US military, “If Russia seizes basing on Libya’s coast, the next logical step is they deploy permanent long-range anti-access area denial (A2AD) capabilities.” This, AFRICOM warned, “will create very real security concerns on Europe’s southern flank”. On top of this, it declared, as might be expected, that it is the Russians who are destabilizing the situation in the country; like there was no 2011 NATO invasion that destroyed Libyan statehood and threw the country into a state of permanent chaos.

To make the fearmongering more successful, the Pentagon released shady undated photos of Russian MiG-29, Su-24, Su-34, and Su-35s flying at undisclosed locations and an image of the Al-Jufra air field in Libya with a single MiG-29.

Earlier in May, sources loyal to the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord reported that the Libyan National Army received 8 fighter jets restored thanks to Russian assistance: six MiG-29s and two Sukhoi 24s. Then, pro-Turkish sources also shared an image of the Al-Jufra air field with a single MiG-29 fighter jet to confirm their claims. Where the rest of the air fleet supposedly supplied by Moscow to Haftar forces might be remains unclear. Another interesting question is where are those hordes of Russian private military contractors that US and Turkish officials like to mention in their reports. While the presence of some Russian PMCs in the country is an open secret, photo and video evidence on the ground demonstrate that the scale of their presence is highly overestimated by mainstream media and Western diplomats. Additionally, Moscow’s actions demonstrate that it prefers to avoid a direct involvement in the conflict.

However, if Turkey and NATO member states continue sending their own military specialists, weapons and military equipment to radical, al-Qaeda-like militant groups operating under the brand of the Government of National Accord, Russia really could consider joining more directly the efforts of the UAE and Egypt, who back the Libyan National Army. Until now, Moscow has been mostly focused on providing a distant diplomatic support to them.

Meanwhile, the number of militants deployed by Turkey from Syria’s northwest to Libya to fight on the side of the Government of National Accord reportedly reached 8,000. A large part of them either sympathizes with al-Qaeda ideology or has been directly involved in cooperation with the former official branch of al-Qaeda in Syria, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Over the past years, the Libyan National Army has broken the backs of al-Qaeda-linked groups and cleared them from most of the country. The local branch of ISIS also lost its positions in northern Libya due to its inability to come to an understanding with pro-GNA forces and their foreign backers. But now, the growing terrorist threat is once again becoming an important factor of the conflict.

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Turkey Dives Into Libyan Conflict

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The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and Syrian militants supported by the Turkish military have achieved more gains in their battle against the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

GNA forces have captured the areas of Asabiah and Mazdah from the LNA and besieged the town of Tarhuna. On May 23, pro-Turkish sources even claimed that alleged Russian private military contractors operating on the side of the LNA were withdrawn from Tarhuna to Bani Walid and then were evacuated from the country. arlier, the GNA claimed that a Russian military contractor was killed in the area of Salah ad-Din. On top of this, the LNA lost two Chinese-made Wing Loong II combat drones supplied by the UAE which crashed near Bani Walid and Qaryat. The total number of LNA fighters killed or injured in recent clashes in Libya’s northwest, according to pro-GNA sources, is over 100.

However, clashes that erupted north of Tarhuna early on May 24 demonstrated that LNA forces are not going to surrender the town without a battle. Meanwhile, the number of Turkish-backed Syrian militants killed in Libya reportedly reached 311. Additionally, the LNA claimed that its forces had shot down 13 Turkish unmanned combat aerial vehicles during the last 3 days. According to the LNA spokesperson, Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Mesmari, the army is now relocating its troops and preparing for a push to once again take an upper hand in the battle against Turkish-backed forces.

The LNA also shared a video documenting Turkish actions to supply military equipment and deploy members of Syrian militant groups in Tripoli. The scale of the Turkish military involvement in the conflict grows on a daily basis. Just recently, Ankara reportedly deployed a MIM-23 Hawk medium-range air defense system and military specialists in the city of Misrata.

Turkish military actions are a cornerstone of the recent GNA successes on the ground. At the same time, the very same approach is instigating instability in the region. Egypt and the UAE, which support the LNA, see the Turkish expansion and the strengthening of the GNA as a direct threat to its vital interests. Cairo is also concerned that, if radical militant groups operating under the brand of the GNA reach the Egyptian-Libyan border, they will become a constant source of the terrorist threat in Egypt itself.

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TURKISH ‘NEO-OTTOMAN’ PROJECT SHIFTS FOCUS FROM SYRIA TO LIBYA

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This week, massive Turkish military support has finally allowed the Government of National Accord to achieve some breakthrough in the battle against the Libyan National Army (LNA).

On May 18, GNA forces and members of Turkish-backed militant groups from Syria supported by Turkish special forces and unmanned combat aerial vehicles captured the Watiya Air Base in the northwestern part of the country. LNA troops urgently retreated from it after several days of clashes in the nearby area. They left behind a UAE-supplied Pantsir-S1, an Mi-35 military helicopter and a notable amount of ammunition. The LNA defense at the air base was undermined by a week-long bombardment campaign by artillery and combat drones of Turkish-backed forces.

Additionally, pro-Turkish sources claimed that drone strikes destroyed another Pantsir-S1 air defense system near Sirte and even a Russian-made Krasukha mobile electronic warfare system. According to Turkish reports, all this equipment is being supplied to the Libyan Army by the UAE. Turkish sources regularly report about successful drone strikes on Libyan convoys with dozens of battle tanks. Some of these ‘military convoys’ later appeared to be trucks filled with water-melons.

In any case, the months of Turkish military efforts, thousands of deployed Syrian militants and hundreds of armoured vehicles supplied to the GNA finally payed off. The Watiya Air Base was an operational base of the LNA used for the advance on the GNA-controlled city of Tripoli. If the LNA does not take back the airbase in the near future, its entire flank southwest of Tripoli may collapse. It will also loose all chances to encircle the city. According to pro-Turkish sources, the next target of the Turkish-led advance on LNA positions will be Tarhuna. Earlier this year, Turkish-backed forces already failed to capture the town. Therefore, they seek to take a revanche.

This will lead to a further escalation of the situation in northern Libya and force the UAE and Egypt, the main backers of the LNA, to increase their support to the army. The UAE-Egypt bloc could bank on at least limited diplomatic support from Russia. Until now, Moscow has preferred to avoid direct involvement in the conflict because it may damage the delicate balance of Russian and Turkish interests. Russian private military contractors that operate in Libya represent the economic interests of some Russian elite groups rather than the foreign policy interests of the Russian state.

Additionally, Turkey, which is supported by Qatar and some NATO member states, has already announced its plans to begin oil and gas exploration off Libya’s coast. Ankara has ceased to hide the true intentions and goals of its military operation in Libya. Thus, the internal political conflict turned into an open confrontation of external actors for the natural resources of Libya.

The interesting fact is that the increasing military activity of Turkey in Libya goes amid the decrease of such actions in Syria. Thousands of Turkish proxies have been sent from Syria to Libya. This limits Ankara’s freedom of operations in the main Syrian hot point – Greater Idlib. In these conditions, Turkish statements about some mysterious battle against terrorism in Idlib look especially questionable. Indeed, in the current conditions, Ankara will be forced to cooperate with Idlib terrorists, first of all al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham even closer to maintain its influence in this part of Syria. The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham plan to create a local quasi-state in the controlled territory and expand its own financial base by tightening the grip on the economic and social life in the region will gain additional momentum.

As to the Turkish government, it seems that in the current difficult economic conditions President Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided to exchange his “Neo-Ottoman” foreign policy project for expanding in some not so rich regions of Syria for quite tangible additional income from the energy business in Libya.

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