Libya: GNA launches offensive to capture al-Watiya airbase
Soldiers from Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) attacked an airbase controlled by the forces of renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar.
The operation was launched early on Tuesday by troops loyal to the Tripoli-based GNA, which managed to seize control of major parts of the al-Watiya airbase, southwest of the capital, sources said.
Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed, reporting from Tripoli, said Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) was forced back to the southern part of the key airbase.
He added the two sides were exchanging heavy fire.
“This battle for al-Watiya has been prepared for by government forces over the past few weeks, by air strikes from government drones targeting Haftar’s forces and locations in and around al-Watiya airbase,” he said.
The airbase has been used to launch air raids on forces loyal to the GNA. It is regarded as a key facility in the country and was captured in August 2014 by Haftar – who used it as his headquarters for launching operations in Libya’s west.
A GNA source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said heavy artillery paved the way for troops to launch the ground offensive. “Clashes are raging on near the base,” the source told Anadolu news agency.