The Libyan Army has launched a new military campaign to combat General Khalifa Haftar’s assault on the capital Tripoli, dubbed “Volcano of Rage”.
Newly appointed spokesman for the Libyan Army Mohammed Gununu announced the move yesterday, stating that troops of the Government of National Accord (GNA) had already advanced on several fronts and captured many military vehicles from Haftar’s forces.
“The Libyan Army rejects coups and militarisation of the state. Libya will always be a civilian state and the army will protect it and secure the people,” Gununu said. “This attack is a surprising one that destroyed the Libyans’ hopes for democracy at a time when they were preparing for the upcoming national conference in Ghadames.”
Last week, General Haftar’s forces announced the start of an assault on areas in the west of the country, including Tripoli, despite warnings from the international community that the attack could plunge the country into active civil war.
In a televised interview this weekend, President Council head Fayez Al-Sarraj slammed the move, citing the arrangements he had made during previous meetings with Haftar, saying his opponent had “broken the covenant” and “tried to stab him in the back”.
“We have agreed on peace covenant. However, after the attack by Haftar’s forces, his declaration of war on our cities and capital, and thus his announcement of a coup against the political agreement, he will only face our strong and firm confrontation.”
He further added that the national conference scheduled for later this month constitutes the only path towards “a stable state to build a civil and democratic state.” The UN has confirmed that the summit will go ahead as planned despite the ongoing military operations.
“We are determined to hold the conference between the Libyan parties on the scheduled date between 14 and 16 April, unless compelling circumstances force us not to hold it,” UN Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salamé said.
In 2014, Libya split between rival camps with Haftar gradually emerging as the dominant figure in the east aligned with a regional parliament and government, and opposing the internationally recognised government in the western capital, Tripoli.
The controversial Libyan general has been backed by Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel, prompting growing outrage from Tripoli. On Friday, Libyan Brigadier General Mohammad Al-Qunidi, the government’s chief of the military intelligence, said that Haftar was attacking the capital with Egyptian, Emirati and Saudi arms.
“The three Arab countries support Haftar’s militias in order to create a new Sisi in Libya,” he said, referring to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
France has also controversially backed Haftar; yesterday, Al Jazeera quoted an unnamed source as saying that Al-Sarraj had officially asked the French ambassador to Libya to convey his protest to President Emmanuel Macron, stating that the bias contradicted previous efforts to support the country’s political transition.