TRIPOLI, Libya 

Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) said Tuesday that its forces conducted airstrikes on Al-Watiya air base, which is controlled by militias loyal to renegade commander Khalifa Haftar.

The GNA military spokesman Mohammed Kanunu issued a statement on developments at the air base in western Libya.

Kanunu said the GNA forces conducted five airstrikes targeting pro-Haftar soldiers and military vehicles at the base.

The airstrikes were carried out in response to attacks by Haftar militias on civilians in Tripoli, it added.

Al-Watiya is regarded as one of the most important air bases in the country and is second only to Mitiga Airport. It was captured in August 2014 by Haftar, the leader of illegally armed forces in eastern Libya, who used it as his headquarters for western operations.

Later in the day, Haftar militias launched more than 65 rockets into civilian residents in Msallata, a town 130 kilometers (80 miles) east of Tripoli, according to a written statement by the press center of GNA-led Operation Volcano of Rage.

The attacks caused civilian casualties and serious material damage in the city, the statement said.

Warlord Haftar on Monday unilaterally declared himself the ruler of Libya.

 In a video message, Haftar pointed to street demonstrations in areas under his control, and claimed he “accepted the mandate of the Libyan people” to govern the country.

He said the 2015 agreement, signed by the warring sides in Libya under the auspices of the UN, has “lost its rule”.

 Under the deal, the GNA was formed to manage the transition process in Libya. However, Haftar and his political allies tried to prevent this agreement from entering into force with his initiatives on the ground.

The GNA has been under attack by Haftar’s forces since last April, with more than 1,000 killed in the violence. It launched Operation Peace Storm on March 26 to counter attacks on the capital. 

Since the ouster of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: Haftar in eastern Libya, supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and the GNA in Tripoli, which enjoys UN and international recognition.

*Writing by Burak Dag and Zehra Nur Duz

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