State of play on the ground
On 22 April, the Libyan National Army (LNA) spokesman, Ahmed al-Mismari, claimed the Libyan National Army (LNA) would intensify its assault on Tripoli. This statement comes as Government of National Accord (GNA) forces drove LNA forces back from Ain Zara, a district in south Tripoli which has been at the heart of the fighting in the last few days. Military activity over the last 48 hours has been limited, with an overall stalemate between two forces emerging as the death toll rose to 254.
The LNA spokesman denied its forces retreated and called upon reservists to open new fronts on the capital. Indeed, LNA forces stationed in Tarhouna, south east of Tripoli, and in Ghariyan, south of Tripoli, are reportedly large and likely to be deployed shortly. Additional forces from Zintan have recently moved to the frontlines in support of the LNA, though other Zintani forces are fighting against the LNA. On the evening of 16-17 April, indiscriminate shelling hit the Abu Salim neighbourhood, leading to 54 casualties, with 14 dead and 40 wounded. The incident saw wide condemnation from the international community and UN. On 20 April, sources reported drone strikes on anti-LNA and civilian locations within Tripoli. Sources indicated these reports were consistent with UAE deployment of AT-802 Archangel UAV’s from the LNA’s al-Khadim airbase in eastern Libya – highlighting the first direct and overt deployment of force by a foreign country in support of the LNA. Al-Khadim airbase has previously been used by the UAE.
The LNA, under the command of Khalifa Haftar launched their offensive against Tripoli with the assumption the city would fall within a few weeks. However, the current stalemate suggests the current crisis is likely to continue for months. Reports suggest LNA forces are attempting to adapt their tactical approach to avoid being bogged down as they were in Derna. LNA’s use of UAV drones appears to be a direct response to their territory loss in the city and marked the first overt use of force by a foreign country supporting the LNA. While significant increased foreign support for either faction is unlikely in the immediate future, UAE’s and/or Egypt’s aerial support to the LNA appears likely to ramp up in the near term.