Photos shared by a resident appeared to show soldiers and military vehicles advancing in Derna - press photo
CAIRO – 8 June 2018: The General Command of the Libyan National Army (LNA) announced Thursday that its military forces are moving steadily towards liberating the port city of Derna from Islamic militias, asserting that the Libyan troops have already controlled more than 75 per cent of the city.
“The LNA advanced towards the enemy's bases in Derna imposing harsh blockade on the terrorist groups,” Khalifa al-Obeidi, head of the LNA’s media office, said in a press release of which Egypt Today obtained a copy.
The advance followed heavy shelling and air strikes in recent weeks by the LNA in preparation for a ground campaign in Derna.
On Monday, LNA forces entered Derna from both the eastern and western coastal roads and took control of the Shiha and Bab Tobruk districts, advancing to within one kilometer of the port, one of the operation’s commanders, Salem al-Rafadi, told Reuters.
Photos shared by a resident appeared to show soldiers and military vehicles advancing along largely deserted streets.
The LNA has long encircled the city of 125,000, the last in eastern Libya to elude its control. It was held by the Derna Protection Forces, formerly known as the Derna Mujahideen Shura Council, a coalition of Islamists and other anti-Haftar combatants.
General Commander of LNA, Khalifa Haftar, stated Wednesday that Derna will be declared terrorism-free soon, calling on soldiers to purge the city from terrorism, while keeping in consideration the safety of civilians.
In a televised speech, Haftar stressed that the army’s aim is to uproot terrorism, after terrorists had turned down all endeavors to avoid armed confrontation.
Haftar directed the army to take into consideration the safety of Derna’s residents and their properties, except for those who carry arms and fight against the Libyan people.
“After four years of holy struggle against the Kharijites, we are close to the liberation of Derna," Field Marshal Haftar said, warning his soldiers from terrorists’ ambushes.
The LNA has repeated its calls for terrorist groups in Derna city to turn themselves in, promising them a “fair trial,” unlike those who will be arrested in possession of weapons and resisting forces.
In a press release on Friday, the LNA also assured that families of the terrorist will not be punished for their sons’ crimes.
Since the ouster of Libyan long-time leader Muammar Ghaddafi more than six years ago, the war-torn country draws wide international and regional attention, causing a serious threat on the national security of North Africa and Europe.
Libya, which is struggling to get through the critical political situation that it has been experiencing since 2011, is not only trying to unify its army, but is longing to revive its political functions by conducting presidential and legislative elections.
Egypt has hosted several meetings to bring the Libyan conflicted factions to the negotiations table to resolve the Libyan crisis and amend the Skhirat agreement, which aims at ending Libya’s civil war.
The major obstacle in the face of any international or Arab participation in ending the crisis in Libya is the lack of a Libyan partner that would support any involvement. Since 2014, there are two major factions on the ground, one led by Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army, who now controls the eastern side of Libya and works in cooperation with the government of the House of Representatives, known as the Tobruk government. The other is led by Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord.
Therefore, there is no official side recognized by all parties in Libya, but there are two opposing factions, roughly equivalent in terms of power, competing for legitimacy. Nonetheless, neither side appears to be able to tip the scales of this conflict in its favor.