Warplanes struck overnight at a Libyan airbase that was recently recaptured by the Government of National Accord (GNA) and its Turkish backers, a military source with the Libyan National Army (LNA) and a resident nearby said on Sunday.
The strikes were carried out against Watiya airbase, south of Tripoli, by “unknown aircraft,” the military source with the LNA said.
A resident at the nearby town of Zintan said explosions were heard from the direction of the base.
The Libyan National Army #LNA announced that its Air Force has destroyed Turkish #Hawk air defense systems that #Turkey had deployed in the past days at al-#Watiya Air Base, northwest of #Libya. pic.twitter.com/XcbtrZ9CUv— Faraj Aljarih 🇱🇾☮ (@FarajAljarih) July 5, 2020
Turkey withdraws troops after suffering material losses: LNA, local sources
Turkey withdrew a substantial number of its garrison at the Watiya base after suffering material losses in the attack, according to an LNA official and local sources who spoke to Al Hadath.
An anonymous Turkish military source confirmed to Al Arabiya that it had suffered shelling and material losses from the strike, but did not specify any casualties.
LNA officer Brig. Khaled al-Mahjoub, the director of its Department of Moral Guidance, told Al Arabiya on Sunday that Turkey had suffered significant losses in military equipment in the attack, and that more attacks would be carried out against the base soon.
"We are in a real war with Turkey, which has oil ambitions in Libya, said al-Mahjoub.
#Libya Update: No change to front lines in past two weeks. Turkish-backed forces preparing to attack Sirte and 'Red Line' near oil fields. Egypt says may intervene if they do. Pentagon says Russian jets at Jufra. Most oil production closed by shutdown. (Map: Petroleum Economist) pic.twitter.com/xzVk1wfxaN— Chris Stephen (@reportingLibya) July 6, 2020
Watiya turning point in GNA, Turkey advance
Watiya’s recapture in May by the GNA in Tripoli marked the start of a reversal of the LNA’s 14-month assault to seize the capital and its retreat along the coast to the new frontlines.
Turkish support was vital to the GNA in turning back the LNA offensive with advanced air defenses and drone strikes that targeted the LNA’s supply lines and troop build-ups.
A Turkish source said last month that Turkey was in talks with the GNA to establish two bases in Libya, one of them at Watiya, the most important airbase in western Libya.
Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar was in Tripoli for meetings with the GNA on Friday and Saturday and Akar swore to do all that was necessary to help it, a Turkish defense ministry statement said.
The LNA is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt. During its advance towards Tripoli last year, the LNA was assisted by Egyptian and UAE airstrikes.
Last month, the United States said Russia had sent at least 14 MiG29 and Su-24 warplanes to an LNA base via Syria, where their Russian airforce markings were removed.
Meanwhile, Turkey has sent thousands of Syrian mercenaries to support the GNA, with whom it has signed a maritime deal that gives Ankara rights over vast swathes of the eastern Mediterranean – a deal which has been rejected by Turkey’s neighbors.
Turkish involvement in Libya has also angered France and Greece and French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has warned of new sanctions on Ankara.
The GNA and LNA are now mobilizing forces at the new frontlines between the cities of Misrata and Sirte. Egypt has warned that any Turkish-backed effort to take Sirte, which the LNA captured in January, could lead its army to directly intervene.
With more audio recordings expected, find out everything you need to know about the leaked audio tapes capturing former Libyan dictator Muammar #Gaddafi and #Qatar officials and their plans to reshape the region.https://t.co/DrKg4xAUxs pic.twitter.com/AmxnhBPcgX— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) July 5, 2020