LNA jets destroy Libya’s Watiya airbase occupied by Turkey-backed GNA: Sources

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Tripoli – Fighter jets of Libyan National Army (LNA) destroyed Libya’s Watiya airbase overnight that was recently occupied by Turkish-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), a military source said on Sunday.

According to the military source reported by Reuters, the strikes were carried out by “unknown aircraft”. However, a resident from the nearby town of Zintan said that the explosions were clearly heard from the direction of the base, and other sources confirm that the strikes were carried out by Khalifa Haftar’s forces of LNA.

UK-based Arabic channel Sky News Arabia also reported that LNA destroyed Turkish deployed air defense systems.

In May, the Watiya airbase was occupied by GNA with its Turkish backers that resulted in the sudden collapse of the 14-months struggle of LNA to seize the capital.

Turkey was playing a vital role with its support for GNA by providing advanced air defence system and drone strikes to cut-off Haftar’s supply lines.

Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar was in Tripoli on Friday and Saturday for meetings with the GNA to prepare all necessary steps to establish two bases in Libya, and one of them was Watiya airbase.

According to the sources, MIM-23 Hawk Air Defense System in the Watiya airbase was destroyed, that sent a strong signal to Turkish-involvement.

LNA is backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and France, while GNA is backed by Qatar, Turkey and Italy.

Turkish involvement in Libya has angered local Libyan population of Benghazi city, who burnt the Turkish flags and the pictures of Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan for interfering and sending militias to slaughter the Libyans. It has also angered France and Greece. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has warned of new sanctions on Ankara if it does not halt its intervention.

Analysts suggest that, Turkish president Erdogan manipulated GNA chief Fayaz al-Sarraj into making him sign an agreement to hand over the Watiya airbase to the Turks officially. Moreover, the agreement will give diplomatic immunity to the Turkish army in Libya.

Meanwhile, Egypt has openly warned that if Turkish-backed forces were to attempt to occupy Sirte, there would be a direct military intervention.

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