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Chronicle of a nine-month offensive to seize Libya's capital

A fighter loyal to the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) stands on a rooftop during clashes with forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar, in Espiaa, about 40 kilometres south of the Libyan capital Tripoli on April 29, 2019.
A fighter loyal to the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) stands on a rooftop during clashes with forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar, in Espiaa, about 40 kilometres south of the Libyan capital Tripoli on April 29, 2019. © Fadel Senna, AFP

Both sides in Libya’s conflict – forces loyal to military strongman Khalifa Haftar and the UN-recognised government based in Tripoli – have agreed to a ceasefire starting on Sunday.

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It comes after months of turmoil in which the eastern-based Haftar and his forces began an offensive to seize the Libyan capital from the Government of National Accord (GNA).

Here is a timeline:

Advance on Tripoli

On April 4, Haftar orders his troops to “advance” on Tripoli, seat since 2016 of the GNA, which he claims is backed by “terrorist” groups.

Haftar supports a parallel administration based in the eastern city of Tobruk, and his forces already control the country’s main southern oil fields.

His Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF, previously Libyan National Army) briefly seize Tripoli’s war-destroyed international airport but are pushed back on April 5.

Government strikes back

Government forces announce a counter-offensive called “Volcano of Anger” on April 7.

Haftar’s aircraft carry out a strike against Tripoli’s only functioning airport, Mitiga, on April 8.

On April 19, the White House says President Donald Trump recognised Haftar’s “significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources”.

On June 26, GNA forces deliver a major blow to Haftar by retaking the town of Gharyan, the LAAF’s main supply base southwest of the capital.

Migrant centre hit

On July 2, an air strike hits a migrant detention centre in a Tripoli suburb. Fifty-three people are killed and 130 wounded. The GNA blames Haftar’s forces, which deny responsibility.

International involvement

On November 5, The New York Times reports that Russia has sent about 200 mercenaries to Libya to support Haftar. Moscow denies that it has dispatched the fighters.

Ten days later the US urges Haftar to end his offensive.

On December 10, a UN report accuses several countries of breaching a 2011 arms embargo by supplying the belligerent parties in the conflict.

It points to Turkey, which supports the GNA, as well as rivals Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that are among countries backing Haftar.

Turkish intervention

On December 12, Haftar announces a new “decisive battle” and an “advance on the heart of Tripoli”.

The GNA cabinet on December 19 approves the implementation of the military deal reached with Turkey.

Turkey’s parliament on January 2 passes a bill approving a military deployment to shore up the GNA.

On January 5, President Recip Tayyip Erdogan says Turkish soldiers have begun deploying to Libya.

The next day Haftar’s forces say they have taken control of Sirte from pro-GNA forces.

Ceasefire

On January 8, Turkey and Russia call for a ceasefire to begin on January 12 at midnight (2200 GMT on January 11).

After initially pledging to continue the offensive, Haftar’s forces agree on January 11 to the ceasefire but warn of a “severe” response to any violation by the “opposing camp”.

Hours after Haftar, the GNA, which is led by Fayez al-Sarraj, also agrees to the ceasefire, but underlines its “legitimate right” to “respond to any attack or aggression that may come from the other camp”.

More than 280 civilians have been killed since the start of the Tripoli offensive, according to the UN. The fighting has displaced 146,000 people and claimed the lives of more than 2,000 fighters.

(AFP)

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