After having secured control of the oil terminals located in the eastern part of the Gulf of Sirte, General Haftar, a strong man of the Tobruk ''government'', has now extended the action of his armed forces in the southern regions of Libya. Once loyal to Muhammar Gheddafi, for whom he led the disastrous military affair in Chad, then fleeing to the United States, Haftar now has the support of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, France and Saudi Arabia. In recent days, his troops have closed all communication routes leading to the Tamanhint air base, located near Sebha, sending reinforcements of the XII Brigade to the area. An initiative that provoked the reaction of the city-state of Misrata which, in the region of Sebha, has a militia known as the ''Third Force''. The so-called Libyan National Army, led by Haftar, has also conducted air strikes in the area of Houn, a town in the region of Jufra, located approximately 250 kilometers south of Sirte. An old MiG 23 fighter departed from the Benina air base, in eastern Libya, to strike the Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB): a coalition of Islamic extremists and former anti-Gheddafi revolutionaries. The attack caused the reaction of the Misrata Military Council which, in a statement, denounced that it was not Islamist militias that were hit, but some armored vehicles of a local brigade which had participated in a battle to liberate Sirte from the Islamic State. ''It is a criminal act that threatens the country’s security and stability - reads the statement published by the Misrata Military Council. The answer will be firm in the methods and times''.
The advance in the regions of southern Libya
According to local witnesses, in effect, instead of bombing the base of the Benghazi Defense Council, Haftar’s MiG 23 had, by mistake, hit a local squad that had recently returned by Sirte, where he took part in the fighting against Islamic State, losing three men. The Misrata militias, which liberated Sirte at the end of a long battle costing them 700 deaths and almost two thousand casualties, therefore decided to send a brigade of Sirte veterans to the region of Sirte. The tension between Haftar’s forces and those of Misrata has never been so high, partly because the general’s men arrived just 65 kilometers from Sirte, in the area of Wadi al Amra, near the town of Harawah. Haftar’s troops established a checkpoint in that area and, according to local sources, searched the vehicles coming from Sirte travelling to Cyrenaica. The advance of the so-called Libyan National Army occurred at the beginning of December, after Haftar’s forces repelled an attack launched by the former Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), allied with the government of Tripoli, towards the oil terminals of Brega, Ras Lanuf, Sidra and Zueitina: the area known as the ''Oil Crescent''.
After having consolidated the taking of the crude oil terminals of eastern Sirte, Haftar then attempted to secure control over the south of Libya, starting with Sebha, an oasis that is home to a major military base.
The battle for control over energy infrastructure
After having consolidated the taking of the crude oil terminals of eastern Sirte, Haftar then attempted to secure control over the south of Libya, starting with Sebha, an oasis that is home to a major military base. The municipality is bordered to the east by Awbari, where the rich oil fields of El-Feel and Al-Sahrara are located. The Rayayina pipeline, connecting the oil fields in the deep south-west with the coast of Tripolitania, was recently reopened; a development made possible by the intervention of the militias of Zintan, a major city in southern Tripoli. These, however, are now divided internally into two factions: one with a ''pragmatic'' approach, which ensured the opening of the oil pipeline, headed by the Minister of Defense, Osama al-Juwali; the other, more aggressive, faction is instead close to Haftar and led by Emad Trabelsi, commander of the As Sawaiq brigade.