Soldiers from Libya's internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) attacked an airbase controlled by the forces of renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar. The operation was launched early on Tuesday by troops loyal to the Tripoli-based GNA, which managed to seize control of major parts of the al-Watiya airbase, southwest of the capital, sources said. Al Jazeera's Mahmoud Abdelwahed, reporting from Tripoli, said Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) was forced back to the southern part of the key airbase. He added the two sides were exchanging heavy fire. "This battle for al-Watiya has been prepared for by government forces over the past few weeks, by air strikes from government drones targeting Haftar's forces and locations in and around al-Watiya airbase," he said.
Egypt's parliament is expected to vote on Monday to authorise the president to deploy troops to neighbouring Libya if Turkey-backed forces there move to retake the key coastal city of Sirte. Turkey, meanwhile, demanded an "immediate" end to the support for rebel commander Khalifa Haftar in Libya after trilateral talks held in Ankara between Libyan, Turkish, and Maltese officials on Monday. "It is essential that all kind of help and support given to putschist Haftar - which prohibits ensuring Libya's peace, tranquillity, security, and territorial integrity - ends immediately," Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said. Haftar's backers should "stop supporting an unrealistic and wrong project", the UN-recognised Government of National Accord's (GNA) Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga said. Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia have been backing Haftar's eastern-based forces in the conflict, while Turkey supports the GNA.
Tripoli, Libya - For an entire year, it seemed like Khalifa Haftar was hell-bent on taking the Libyan capital, Tripoli, by force. His Libyan National Army (LNA) had made considerable strides towards capturing the city of some 2.3 million people. Support from the likes of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Russia - in the form of drone and fighter jet sorties, and an army of mercenaries - appeared to make his victory all the more likely. Instead, the United Nations-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA), which Turkey backs, launched a counteroffensive that has, in record time, seen it retake several key towns and a strategic airbase southwest of Tripoli. Suddenly, Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones shifted from a defensive to offensive posture, destroying a handful of Russian Pantsir aerial defence systems and targeting LNA positions as far away as the Jufra military base in central Libya.
Russian fighters in Libya were flown out a town south of Tripoli by their Libyan allies after retreating from front lines at the capital, the town's mayor said. The reported departure of the Russians on Sunday was another blow to the Libya National Army (LNA) of eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar and his foreign allies. The Russian fighters allied to the LNA retreated with their heavy equipment from the capital to the airport of Bani Walid, a town some 150km (93 miles) southeast of Tripoli, said Salem Alaywan, Bani Walid's mayor. He told Reuters news agency the Russians were flown out of western Libya to Jufra, a remote central district and LNA stronghold. "They [the Russians] were flown in three military planes to Jufra and their military vehicles were driven there," he said.
Turkey and Russia agreed on Wednesday to press for a ceasefire in war-ravaged Libya, but Ankara said the leader of the eastern forces was illegitimate and must withdraw from key positions for a credible truce to take hold. Moscow and Ankara are among the main power brokers in Libya's conflict while supporting opposing sides. Russia backs the eastern-based forces of renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, while Turkey has helped the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) repel Haftar's attempt to storm the capital. "We've just reached an agreement with Russia to work on a credible and sustainable ceasefire in Libya," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's top security adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, told Reuters news agency. Kalin said any deal must be based on a return to what he said were the Libyan front lines in 2015, requiring Haftar's forces to pull back from the strategic city of Sirte - gateway to Libya's eastern oilfields - and al-Jufra, an airbase near the centre of the country.