Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) announced operation “Volcano of Anger” on Sunday, designed to defend the capital from Libyan National Army (LNA) forces loyal to military commander Khalifa Haftar.
LNA forces, which control the east and recently expanded to southern Libya, last week launched an advance on Tripoli in the west, home to the internationally recognised LNA government.
Haftar’s offensive has taken the U.N. by surprise, undermining a plan to find agreement on a road map for elections to resolve the protracted instability in Libya.
Haftar, who casts himself as a foe of Islamist extremism but is viewed by opponents as a new dictator in the mould of former leader Muammar Gaddafi, enjoys the backing of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which see him as a bulwark against Islamists and have supported him militarily, according to U.N. reports.
The offensive intensifies a power struggle that has fractured the oil and gas producer since the 2011 overthrow of Gaddafi.
On Sunday, Haftar’s LNA forces were regrouping to travel west towards Tripoli where battles with forces of the Government of National Accord are ongoing.
The LNA claims to have reached the southern outskirts and taken its former international airport, though the Tripoli military officials deny this.