Middle East

Libya's renegade general Haftar announces Ramadan truce

Call for a ceasefire during the holy month comes in response to ‘appeals from friendly nations’, LNA spokesman says.

Libyan renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar has said his forces would cease hostilities during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan following international calls for a truce in the war-torn North African nation.

Libyan National Army (LNA) spokesman Ahmed Mismari said in a television broadcast on Thursday the ceasefire came at the request of the international community and “friendly countries”.

More:

  • Libya’s government accuses rival Khalifa Haftar of a coup d’etat

  • Haftar dismisses UN Libya unity deal as ‘thing of the past’

  • UAE officials ‘visit Sudan’ to rally support for Libya’s Haftar

“The commander general announces the halting of military operations from his side,” a spokesman for Haftar, who controls large swathes of eastern and southern Libya, said from the eastern city of Benghazi on Wednesday. 

Explosions in the centre of the capital Tripoli were heard after the announcement.

A source from Haftar’s rival, the United Nations-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), told Al Jazeera it would not adhere to the truce.

Mismari warned violations by the GNA would be met with an “immediate and harsh response”.

Both the LNA and the GNA have already said twice this year that they would stop fighting, but there was a sharp escalation in warfare last month.

Libya has been split since 2014 between the GNA in Tripoli and some other areas of the northwest, and a parallel administration based in Benghazi in the east.

Last week, the UN, European Union and several countries called for both sides to lay down their arms during the holy month.

The ceasefire announcement comes after pro-Haftar forces suffered a series of setbacks in recent weeks, with GNA forces ousting them from two key coastal cities west of Tripoli.

Military dictatorship

Backed by Turkey, GNA troops are now encircling Haftar’s main rear base at Tarhounah, 60km (39 miles) southeast of the capital. 

Since launching an offensive to seize Tripoli last April, several ceasefires between Haftar’s forces and the GNA have fallen through, with both sides accusing the other of violations.    

Haftar’s opponents accuse him of wanting to establish a new military dictatorship in the country.

On Monday, he claimed he had “a popular mandate” to govern, declaring a key 2015 political deal over and vowing to press his assault to seize Tripoli. 

The GNA responded by accusing Haftar of seeking to stage a new coup and called the attempt a “farce”.

“What the war criminal Haftar said was a coup on the democratic path, not new but a continuation of his failed coups and to cover up his repeated defeats,” the GNA said in a statement.

Haftar, 76, receives support from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Russia. The GNA is backed by Turkey.

On Wednesday, a UAE delegation reportedly landed in Sudan to shore up support and recruit fighters for Haftar’s forces.

The delegation, led by UAE National Security Advisor Tahnoun bin Zayed, discussed ways of supporting Haftar in light of the setback his LNA is facing.

In a 376-page report submitted to the UN Security Council in December, a panel of experts warned the presence of Sudanese fighters – which analysts estimate at anywhere between 1,000 and 3,000 – had become a notable feature of the Libyan conflict and it risked destabilising the country further.

The oil-rich North African nation has been gripped by chaos since the overthrow and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The LNA has for weeks been shelling Tripoli in a campaign of bombardment that has drawn repeated rebukes from the UN.

Hospitals in parts of Tripoli held by the GNA have repeatedly been hit by shelling in recent weeks, despite the threat to Libya posed by the coronavirus.

The Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday the UAE had last year targeted a biscuit factory with a drone strike in support of the LNA, killing eight civilians in an attack it called “apparently unlawful”. The UAE and the LNA have not commented on that report.


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