A new round of intense fighting has broken out between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and Turkish-backed forces near Tripoli.
During the past few days, fighters from the Government of National Accord (GNA) and Syrian militants supported by the Turkish military carried out several attacks on Tripoli’s Airport attempting to capture it from the LNA. At one point, Turkish-led forces even entered the territory of the airport but failed to secure their gains and were forced to retreat. The key facility south of Tripoli remained in the hands of LNA troops. As a result of the clashes, the GNA captured a T-72 battle tank, destroyed at least 2 LNA vehicles and lost about a dozen fighters.
Seeking to compensate this military setback, pro-Turkish sources published photos of what they described as a list of Russian mercenaries written in Russian captured south of Tripoli. However, the list appeared to be only Arab names roughly translated into Russian.
Pro-LNA sources say that the GNA and its backers are pushing the propaganda about the supposedly major involvement of Russian military contractors in the conflict to draw the audience’s attention from the fact that Turkey deployed about 10,000 Syrian militants to support the GNA. Recently, Turkey even started supplying its Syrian proxies and GNA fighters with M60 battle tanks.
In response to these attacks, the LNA Air Force intensified airstrikes on positions of Turkish-backed forces near Gharyan, Al-Aziziyah, Ayn Zarah and Misrata. Pro-LNA sources also claimed that at least 3 Turkish-supplied unmanned aerial vehicles were shot down over Bani Waled and another near Tripoli Airport.
At the same time, LNA units captured from Turkish-backed forces the village of Al-Asaba south of Gharyan. According to reports, the LNA is planning to develop the advance in the direction of Kikla in order to secure a link with its forces deployed southwest of Tripoli. Another priority target is Gharyan itself. If the LNA is able to retake it from the GNA, it will be able to stabilize the frontline after the recent setbacks in the battle against Turkish-backed forces and relaunch the advance on Tripoli. On the other hand, if the GNA keeps Gharyan in its hands, it will be able to continue pressuring LNA units at the Tripoli Airport and expand a buffer zone around the city of Tripoli.