Jets bomb Libya's GNA-controlled Watiya airbase where Turkey may build base: Sources

Destroyed hangars at Watiya, May 18, 2020. (File photo: Reuters)

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.

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A resident at the nearby town of Zintan said explosions were heard from the direction of the base.

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.

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.

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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.

Read more: Politics, Lies and Gaddafi Tapes: The plots uncovered by Libyan intelligence leaks

With Reuters.

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Last Update: Monday, 06 July 2020 KSA 11:48 - GMT 08:48
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