Libya’s GNA forces incur heavy losses near Watiya airbase

Haftar’s Libyan National Army repels attack by Turkish-backed Government of National Accord forces on Al-Watiya airbase in Tripoli.

LONDON - Fighting escalated Tuesday as Tripoli-allied militias attempted to take a military base held by commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces in Tripoli.

Haftar’s Libyan National Army repelled the attack by Turkish-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) forces on the Al-Watiya airbase, which resulted in the death of 40 people and dozens of injuries, according to the War Information Division (WID), affiliated with the LNA.

The WID said in a post on its official page on Facebook that "the Libyan army has inflicted on the reconciliation forces more than 40 people dead and dozens of wounded, and arrested some of them."

It also reported that violent clashes and a mutual bombardment with heavy artillery broke out between the two rival forces in Salaheddin and Hadaba neighbourhoods, south of Tripoli.

The attack on Al-Watiya base came after militias managed to seize a number of cities on the western coast, with the support of Turkish aircraft and mercenaries from Syria last month, amid reports that these groups committed war crimes against families and civilians.

Turkey continues to defy United Nations resolutions and the international community by supporting armed groups and militias in war-torn Libya with military equipment and mercenaries.

Ankara on Tuesday called on all powers supporting Haftar to rethink their position and invest in Fayez al-Serraj’s government after blatantly admitting its involvement in the latest fight.

"Thanks to Turkey's support for the legitimate government of Libya, the destabilising and illegitimate Haftar forces are losing ground in Libya. All those powers supporting Haftar must rethink their position and invest in the legitimate government for peace and stability," Fahrettin Altun, Turkey's communications director, said on Twitter.

Serraj called Tuesday for a renewal of UN-brokered talks to end divisions in the oil-rich country.

Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a civil war toppled long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed. The country has since split between rival administrations in the east and the west, each backed by armed groups.

He said the roadmap could include amending a landmark UN-brokered agreement to unite the country in 2015 and appoint a new government or agree on a plan for elections in the short term.

Jalel Harchaoui, a Libya expert at The Netherlands Institute of International Relations, said that the UN-backed prime minister has become more isolated, both internationally and domestically.

“Serraj has been under many contradictory sources of pressure, and his position has become less tenable. His call for a return to the UN process fits within that context of great frailty,” said Harchaoui.