LNA undertakes air strikes on Turkish assets at Watiya Airbase
In the early hours of 5 July, Watiya airbase was attacked with several waves of aerial attacks. The alleged target was the al-Nadab barracks at the airbase, where Turkish personnel had set up their operations after the site was captured from by Government of National Accord (GNA)-aligned forces in May. Local source indicate there were a significant number of casualties, though the GNA and Turkey have both denied any casualties. No one has formally claimed responsibility for the attack. The GNA condemned the attacks by a ‘foreign air force’ and warned that a response would be made at ‘the right time and the right place.
This comes within the context of the ongoing military standoff around Sirte, and threats by Egypt to deploy forces to Libya if the GNA/ Turkey forces take control of Sirte and Jufra. At present, there appears to be a waiting game in Sirte amid various international negotiations to try and reach a ceasefire and reopen the oil ports. So far, Turkey has not officially reacted to the attack on Watiya and the GNA has not accused specific countries of being behind the aerial attack. This suggests that they are being cautious about their response, given the potential for significant escalation from Russia or Egypt if the Turks retaliate with tit-for-tat airstrikes against Jufra. This reticence may also suggest that Turkey doesn’t currently have the aerial capacity in Libya to be confident of taking Jufra by force at this point. Nevertheless, even if Turkey does not respond in kind immediately, this attack is likely to put further strain on international ceasefire and oil blockade talks while any significant escalation in reaction to the Watiya attack is likely to severely undermine such talks.