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Sarraj Deepens Rift with Haftar by Announcing Military Operation in Southern Libya

Sarraj Deepens Rift with Haftar by Announcing Military Operation in Southern Libya

Friday, 18 May, 2018 - 07:45
Libya's Prime Minister, Fayez al-Sarraj. (AFP)
Cairo - Khaled Mahmoud
In a move that will deepen differences with Libyan National Army commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, National Accord Government Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj announced his opposition to the LNA’s military operation in the eastern city of Derna and ordered the formation of a military force to protect the South.

Sarraj ordered on Thursday the commanders of the military of Tripoli, the western and central regions to prepare, within ten days, their forces to form a unit tasked with protecting and securing the South.

Violent intermittent clashes had erupted in Sabha on Saturday after al-Tabou clan members seized control of the southwestern city’s military zone. Clashes between al-Tabou and Awlad Suleiman clans have been ongoing there since February 25.

Various Libyan powers have accused African migrants from Chad, Niger and Sudan of fighting for the Tabou clan.

Sources close to Haftar predicted the Sarraj’s military intervention in the South will deepen the political and military disputes with the LNA.

They warned to Asharq Al-Awsat that the move may deter Haftar from holding talks with Sarraj in a meeting that is being planned by France, similar to the one it hosted between the two leaders in 2017.

The move may also impede holding a Cairo meeting between Haftar and Sarraj’s respective military officers, they added.

Egypt has been mediating efforts to unite the Libyan army.

Head of the elders council in the Wadi al-Shate area, Ali Hammouda rejected Sarraj’s decision, saying it is a precursor to legitimizing militias.

He therefore called on the residents of the South to confront it “with all force.”

“We will confront the decision to avert transforming the South into a civil war zone. The people there need projects, services and reconstruction, not criminal militias,” he declared.

In declaring his operation in the South, Sarraj had expressed his concern over the news of airstrikes targeting Derna and demanded that the stifling siege be lifted off the city.

He said that the opportunity was available for retreat “otherwise the consequences will be severe and the war will go beyond Derna to other regions.”

Prominent Muslim Brotherhood official Khaled al-Mashry condemned the Derna offensive, deeming the shelling of the city as a crime and violation of human rights and all international treaties.

The United Nations mission in Libya called on all sides of the armed conflict in Derna to respect International Humanitarian Law and take all necessary measures to protect civilians.

Haftar’s forces have meanwhile seized the al-Dhar al-Hamr, al-Hila and Martouba near Derna. This was the first time that the LNA announces its gains on the ground in the Derna operation that it launched in early May.

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