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Libya: Government forces control 8 areas in 7 hours

Libyan Army forces attend "Operation Peace Storm" of the Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) against the forces of warlord Khalifa Haftar in Tripoli, Libya on 27 March 2020. [Amru Salahuddien - Anadolu Agency]
Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) forces in Tripoli, Libya on 27 March 2020 [Amru Salahuddien / Anadolu Agency]

The internationally-recognised Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) on Monday succeeded in liberating six cities and two strategic areas from the forces of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, in just seven hours. The liberated regions are:

Surman:

A strategic city located on the coastal road linking the Libyan capital of Tripoli with the Tunisian border. The city's population is estimated at 40,000. Its strategic importance lies in the fact that it is located in the front line between Haftar's militias and the GNA forces in the city of Zawiya (50 kilometres west of Tripoli). Surman is only 60 kilometres away from the capital, which means that if the city falls under Haftar's control, he will seize the rest of western Tripoli too.

Sabratha:

The city is located about 70 kilometres away from Tripoli, with a population of about 110,000, and it is among the largest cities west of the capital in terms of demographic density. Sabratha is also proximate to the coastal road, which is vital for commercial exchange and passenger traffic to Tunisia or abroad.

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Al-Ajilat:

Al-Ajilat is located 80 away kilometres from Tripoli, with a population estimated at about 110,000. Although the city is not located on the coastal road, it is only a few kilometres away. It was one of the main strongholds of Haftar's militias. However, after Osama Al-Juwaili, commander of the Zintan Military Council (170 kilometres south of Tripoli) pledged his loyalty to the GNA, Al-Ajailat became one of cities where the power balance is still fragile.

Jumayl:

Jumayl is located 100 kilometres away from Tripoli, with a population of about 100,000. The city is inhabited by Arab tribes, and represents a human and geographic barrier between the Amazigh Zwara on the coast and the Amazigh of the mountain. The area is mostly controlled by Haftar, although Al-Juwaili has some influence there. Also, Al-Jufra Airbase (140 kilometres southwest of Tripoli) administratively belongs to the city of Jumayl.

Riqdalin:

Riqdalin is located 120 kilometres away from Tripoli and only 10 kilometres away from the coast of Zwara, with a population estimated at about 36,000. The city's demographic and political structure is similar to that in Jumayl, as it is controlled by pro-Haftar Arab tribes, despite the presence of Al-Juwaili forces in the area. As such, Haftar restored control the city of Riqdalin on 25 March.

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Zaltan:

Zaltan is a small city, with a population of less than 25,000, and it is the last city on the coastal road not far from the Tunisian border. The city is 130 kilometres away from Tripoli, and it is known for supporting the GNA government. However, Haftar's militias managed to take control of it on 25 March, after the GNA forces stormed Al-Wattia military base and captured 27 elements of Haftar's forces.

Al-Assah:

It is near the Tunisian border and located south of Ras Jedir crossing. It belongs administratively to the city of Riqdalin. The strategic importance of Al-Assah lies in the presence of a border guard camp in the area, charged with monitoring smuggling operations.

Since 2014, several parties exchanged control of the city given its strategic significance. However, on 25 March, Haftar's forces stormed the camp after engaging in clashes with the GNA army, due to its proximity to Al-Wattia air base, which is the main stronghold of Haftar's militias in the west of the country, as part of a revenge attack that included several cities in the Libyan West.

Mellitah:

It is an agricultural area with a small population, and administratively belongs to the city of Al-Ajailat. The city gained strategic importance after opening an oil port, a gas processing complex and a gas pipeline linking Libya with Italy on its soil, transforming the area into an industrial zone.

On a military level, the importance of the city lies in its location on the coastal road, surrounded by three prominent cities, namely, Sabratha from the east, Zwara from the west and Al-Ajailat from the south.

The city has a permanent military roadblock, and has always been a source of conflict between Haftar and his opponents, although he has managed to control the city only recently.

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