UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY) – Forces of Libyan military commander Khalifa Hafar attacked opposition targets in the eastern city of Derna on Tuesday using planes and artillery and seized a wheat silo and villages on the outskirts of the city, military officials said.
It was the first major attack since Haftar announced last week that he would control the last stronghold of forces opposed to the Libyan National Army under his command in the east of the country.
The Libyan national army has besieged the city, located on the main coastal road between Benghazi and Egypt, and has long threatened to start ground operations there. His offensive there was limited to occasional air strikes and artillery shelling.
Darna is dominated by an alliance of Islamists and former dissidents known as the Mujahideen Council of Derna and its environs.
After Libya split between rival camps in the East and West in 2014, Hafer gradually emerged as a dominant figure in the East. The man is allied with a parliament and government based in the east and opposes the internationally recognized government based in Tripoli.
The United Nations is leading efforts to stabilize Libya and preparing the country for elections before the end of the year.
Egypt, which supports Libya’s national army, has launched several air strikes on Derna against what it called training camps that send militants into its territory.
“The forces are advancing on five fronts backed by air strikes and artillery shelling,” spokesman Abdul Karim Sabra said.
Libyan army sources said the troops had advanced to villages about four kilometers from the city.
Sabra did not give figures on the number of casualties, but websites close to the Mujahideen Shura Council said five people were killed in the air strikes.