GNA launches Operation Peace Storm as fighting escalates nationwide
On 25 March, Government of National Accord (GNA)-aligned forces launched multiple coordinated assaults on Libyan National Army (LNA) forces at Watiya airbase (west of Tripoli), in Abu Grein (east of Misrata) and in the south of Tripoli, in what has been dubbed as “Operation Peace Storm.” At the time of writing, none of these assaults had achieved notable gains and at Watiya, the initial GNA attack was followed by a successful counter-attack by the LNA. Nevertheless, these assaults and clashes mark a significant escalation in the year-long conflict. On 28 March, the fighting is thought to have claimed the greatest number of casualties in one day since the LNA launched their assault on Tripoli on 4 April 2019.
The last few days have marked a significant escalation in the conflict across multiple frontlines in Libya, with both losses and gains for both the GNA and LNA forces. Both sides have been receiving considerable imports of arms, drones and expertise in the last few months from their external allies, and it seems that the collapse of the UN mediation process, the worsening economic crisis in Libya, and the global crisis driven by the coronavirus have provided the trigger for both forces to intensify their assaults. This means a continued escalation of fighting remains likely in the coming days, though neither side is likely to come out as the clear ‘winner’, with forces more likely to make gains on one axis or frontline, but make losses elsewhere.