Army seizes new ground in Benghazi amid reports of anti-IS Sirte offensive

Libya Channel

Libya’s military forces in the east said they have successfully retaken swathes of Benghazi from extremist groups, amid reports troops were amassing near Sirte against the so-called Islamic State.

In the last few weeks the army has retaken the city’s main cement factory and old and new cemeteries in the Hawari district, which were major Islamic State positions, Special Forces Spokesman Milud Zwai told Libya Channel. His comments come amid reports troops loyal to the army were moving on Sirte, some 340km to the west of Benghazi, in a bid to flush IS out of their stronghold.

In Benghazi the army also retook Um Mabruka suburb in the west of the city, al-Faakat and Benghazi University, where IS militants and al-Qaeda affiliated Ansar al-Sharia were said to be located. Troops also captured the 7th April army base, once the headquarters of fighting coalition Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council. The BRSC is backed by Libya Dawn, an armed coalition that until recently controlled Tripoli and is opposed to the army in the east.  “We are still working to liberate the remaining areas of the city,” said spokesperson Zwai.

IS, Ansar al-Sharia and other forces remain in Ganfuda and Gawarsha in the southwest of Benghazi as well as Sabri in the northeast of the city.

On Wednesday local media reported that hundreds of troops loyal to the army were en route to Sirte to start anew offensive against IS dubbed “Gardabia 2”.  It is not yet know what the plan is but sources told Libya Channel that the army was expected to make a statement soon about a coming battle. There were reports that forces from Misrata – who have opposed the army in the east – were mobilizing separately. 

Meanwhile deputy head of UNSMIL Ali Al-Za’tari, warned that humanitarian response in Libya remained “dangerously underfunded”  amid the escalating conflicts across the country. The UN Humanitarian coordinator announced on Monday that just 18 percent of the total funds required for Libya’s Humanitarian Response Plan have been received, adding  that the “clock is ticking” to deliver life-saving aid.

Just $30 million of the total $165.6 million has been acquired, meaning essential medicines could run out as early as June, he added.

“Vulnerable people in Libya are looking to the humanitarian community for help,” Al-Za’tari told.  “Many are at breaking point, facing shortages of basic goods, unsafe and unsanitary conditions and deteriorating infrastructure. There is no time to waste to bring relief to those in need.”
The HRP funding goes towards easing the plight of internally displaced persons, refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants caught up in conflict and insecurity, but the humanitarian response remains dangerously underfunded.

“A mere 18% of our funding target remains insufficient to save lives in Libya,”  Al-Za’tari said.  “There is a very real risk that supplies of essential medicines will not last beyond June. In many areas, waste disposal and sewage services have ceased to function. Health experts warn that outbreaks of preventable diseases are set to rise. We cannot allow this to happen. I urge the donor community to boost its support to Libya before it is too late.”

He thanked the European Commission, Italy, Canada, Switzerland, the United States, Republic of Korea and Sweden for contributing urgent assistance.
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