No Eid Celebrations as Libya Descends into Chaos
Even though Monday marked the first day of ‘Eid al-Fitr, Libya witnessed a further descent into chaos with increased fighting and destruction in both Tripoli and Benghazi. In the eastern city, Islamist aligned forces launched a counter-offensive that culminated in the conquest of a key Saiqa base in the Bu Attni district, which also comprised training facilities and the headquarters of the 21st Battalion.
Furthermore, reports of a barrage of rockets targeting the Tibesti Hotel and nearby Istiqlal street, where the House of Representatives is set to gather next week, circulated yesterday. These reports should be seen as a further proof that the escalation in violence witnessed throughout the country is the result of a tactical choice taken from certain factions to derail the political transition whilst avoiding to openly reject electoral results, a move that could have proved far riskier in attracting a speedy external intervention.
In Tripoli fighting between Zintani and Misratan forces continued largely unabated despite major collateral damages. On Monday, a fuel depot located nearby the airport was set on fire as a result of ongoing clashes in the area. The fire there has now been declared out of control and has reached another tank, forcing Libyan authorities to plea for external support. A third tank has been reportedly hit today without further consequences.
In other developments, after the failed attempt of the past days, caretaker Prime Minister Thinni and the government have effectively relocated in al-Baida, in an attempt to try and tackle the ongoing crisis from a different perspective and broker a first ceasefire in Benghazi. Mustafa Abdul Jalil also made his voice heard again, talking as the head of the Libyan Council of Notables assembled by the government to facilitate negotiations, the former Chairman of the NTC issued a communicate inviting all parties involved in the Tripoli fights to comply with previously brokered ceasefire agreements. Finally, in the relatively calmer south, the Libya Herald reports that a consensus is coalescing between various and often opposing forces, such as Tebus, Tuareg and the Zwai tribe, announcing their support and material assistance for the Zintani-Operation Dignity block.
As for oil fields and their output, Samir Salim Kamal is quoted by Reuters as saying that ongoing fighting has spared oil related infrastructures and that the fuel depots on fire in Tripoli were destined to local consumption:
“I can confirm that all the oilfields are safe and the production is still around 500,000 bpd,” Samir Salim Kamal, director of planning at the Libyan Oil Ministry, told Reuters. He declined to say from which day the figure was or to give further details.
Two weeks ago, Libya’s oil production has risen to 588,000 bpd but it has fallen since the clashes have started over the capital’s international airport. It was unclear if the Brega oil port has started operating after the government had reached a deal with protesting security guards to end strikes.