Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) has declared three airbases “occupied” by foreign forces.
According to a visual slide by GNA military spokesman Mohammed Qanunu shared late Wednesday on Facebook, three airbases — Al-Watya, Al-Jufra and Al-Khadim — are being run by foreign countries including the United Arab Emirates.
“These bases are run by foreign countries to create chaos in Libya,” Qanunu said.
He went on to say that the airbases are used as “launching pads for aircraft bombing civilian targets and state installations, which has killed hundreds of civilians, including children and women, and destroyed schools and hospitals.”
The spokesman said that the liberation and neutralization of the three airbases has become a “religious and national duty, and is a priority for our forces, because they pose a danger to civilians.”
Regarding Al-Watya airbase, Qanunu said it poses the biggest threat.
“The countries that support [commander Khalifa] Haftar have worked to make it [Al-Watya] an Emirati base, similar to the role of Al-Khadim airbase,” he said.
Qanunu said Al-Watya airbase is currently under partial control of the GNA forces, asserting that efforts are being made to vacate it peacefully to avoid bloodshed.
“If not [vacated] peacefully, we will be forced to use force,” he said.
In Al-Jufra, the spokesman said, armed groups from Sudan’s Darfur are present and Emirati warplanes and drones in the airbase located in central Libya.
Al-Jufra “suffocates the south and separates it from the rest of Libya, as it cuts the food and drug supply from all the cities of the south,” he said.
Regarding Al-Khadim airbase in northeastern Libya, Qanunu said: “The UAE has been occupying it openly and clearly since 2016, and reports of UN expert teams have conveyed to the world the full picture of the UAE’s occupation of airbase.”
He stated that “many constructions took place at the airbase, during four years, including constructing aircraft hangers, a runway and accommodation building for foreign military personnel.”
Qanunu stressed that “Al-Khadim base is the main operations room for foreign forces, and it is an Emirati base on Libyan soil.”
On Wednesday, the GNA denounced the unauthorized presence of a French Rafale fighter jet and fuel supply plane above the Misrata and Abugrein areas.
GNA accuses several regional and European countries of providing military support to militias loyal to renegade general Khalifa Haftar, who contests the GNA’s legitimacy and authority in the oil-rich country.
Haftar declared himself the ruler of Libya on Monday, claiming that he “accepted the mandate of the Libyan people” and terming the 2015 UN-brokered Skhirat agreement for a unified government in the country “a thing of the past.”
Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: Haftar in eastern Libya, supported mainly by Egypt and the UAE, and the GNA in Tripoli, which enjoys the UN and international recognition.
Haftar’s self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) launched a failed offensive to take Tripoli last April, which caused bloodshed and suffering but stalled on the outskirts of the city.
*Writing by Mahmoud Mohamed Barakat
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