Fighters aligned with Libya's UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) gained control of further territory in southern Tripoli on Friday, May 22, as they continued to capitalize on the retreat of rival Libyan National Army (LNA) forces. The gains came as pro-GNA militias launched a large-scale offensive in the Salah Eddine, Ramla, and Almshrou districts, recapturing the areas and overrunning the Tikbali military camp. Although there were reports of heavy fighting on Friday morning, particularly in Salah Eddine, LNA sources claimed that they had already withdrawn from the areas on Wednesday, May 20, as part of the group's Eid-al-Fitr ceasefire which has seen their forces retreat up to 3 km (2 mi) from their previous frontlines in the capital.
The decision by the LNA to withdraw from areas of southern Tripoli ahead of Eid-al-Fitr, which was widely interpreted as a strategic retreat, has seen GNA-aligned forces recapture swathes of territory in and around the capital in recent days. As well as southern districts within the city, GNA fighters captured the Watiya airbase west of Tripoli on Monday, May 18, and the strategically important town of Asaba three days later. The gains have seen GNA-aligned forces turn their attention towards Tarhouna, the LNA's most significant stronghold in the northwest of the country. Following weeks of mounting attacks against LNA positions around the town, pro-GNA forces have reportedly dropped flyers on Tarhouna in recent days warning of an imminent offensive. However, the LNA has since threatened to respond to the recent GNA gains with a campaign of airstrikes, and retreating forces have sought to hamper the advance of their rivals by leaving improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and booby traps behind as they withdraw.
The LNA launched an offensive on Tripoli in April 2019 in an attempt to unseat the internationally recognized GNA. Fighting between GNA and LNA forces has continued to flare up in the capital over the last year, with both sides conducting regular airstrikes. However, several attempts to impose a ceasefire between the groups have failed. The bulk of recent fighting has been concentrated in the southern suburbs of the capital.
Turkish-backed GNA forces have increasingly pushed back against the LNA around Tripoli since April. Having lost several strategic positions in recent weeks, the LNA's Eid-al-Fitr disengagement has been interpreted as an attempt by the group to consolidate their forces into more defendable positions around the capital so as to not lose their foothold in the region.
The security environment in Libya remains complex. Although travel is possible in some areas (with appropriate security protocols in place), other areas should be considered strictly off-limits. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to travel.
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