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FM Fathi Bashaga. Screenshot from YouTube

Is the conflict in Libya escalating?

Russian agency RIA Novosti reported a series of air raids conducted on military targets in the North-West of Libya launched by the air forces of General Khalifa Haftar, who wasted no time to respond to attacks by the GNA.

Published: May 23, 2020, 9:12 am

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    Tripoli

    The air force of General Khalifa Haftar has conducted at least three raids against positions of the government of national agreement (GNA) in the North-West of Libya, a military source of the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

    “LNA air force fighters targeted GNA military posts in the city of Gharian and the cities of Al Asabiah and Jendouba in the course of three airstrikes,” the source said. Yesterday the GNA claimed the conquest of Al Asabiah.

    In Moscow, the images of the Russian Pantsir that fell into the hands of opposition Al Sarraj militias after the battle of Al Watiya and circulating in Tripoli as a trophy, have been met with stern resilience. The vehicle, supplied to the Libyan National Army, is said to be part of the spoils of war in recent days.

    And it was shown on the streets of the Libyan capital as an emblem of the new advances of the forces close to Prime Minister Fayez Al Sarraja against Haftar. From the Kremlin, therefore, a turning point was announced when eight military planes arrived in Libya in the past few hours, available to Haftar’s forces.

    At least this is the version of the Libyan interior minister, Fathi Bashaga, interviewed by Bloomberg TV. If confirmed, the news would signal a possible new and further escalation of the conflict.

    According to Bashaga, the aircraft sent by the Kremlin to Libya have already landed in the east of the country. Specifically, they are six Mig 29 and two Sukhoi 24. The planes were said to have been taken off from Hmeimim’s base, that is to say, the main one used by Moscow in Syria to conduct attacks against anti-Assad terrorist groups.

    No official confirmation has yet arrived from the Russian capital, however other details have been leaked from diplomatic sources. The planes left on Wednesday and, after a stopover in Egypt to avoid refueling in flight, they landed in Libyan territory ready to be made operational.

    The eight military planes are likely to have landed at a base near Tobruck, one of the most important cities in Cyrenaica and located not far from the border with Egypt.

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