In Sirte, the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) Bunyan Marsus coalition continues to advance pinning ISIS into an ever smaller part of the city — tightening the noose around ISIS militants holed up in its central areas. Sirte’s port remains under the control of Bunyan Marsus, but clashes with ISIS continue to take place around the port’s western perimeter. GNA naval boats are blockading the port, while intense fighting is now taking place near the Ouagadougou Centre, ISIS’s main stronghold, with Misratans making heavy use of airstrikes and artillery fire to take out ISIS snipers. Bunyan Marsus leaders say that the coalition has killed large numbers of ISIS fighters who have attempted to break out of their encirclement — lashing out by launching Grad missiles at Bunyan Marsus forces on 10 July in the first, second and third residential districts as well as in the university campus. Bunyan Marsus leaders have optimistically said they expect the battle to be completed within the next two weeks, although most serious analysts predict a more drawn out battle.
There is a suspicion that the senior ISIS leadership has already evacuated from Sirte. Informed sources say that Libyan ISIS members have attempted to defect to friendly Islamist militias south of Sirte, some of whom are nominally aligned with the Misratans. The Misratans are also increasingly bitter at what they see as the failure of Fayez Serraj and the GNA’s Presidency Council to provide supplies and armaments that they need for the operation. This bitterness could increase the likelihood of a new Misratan-Islamist convergence against the GNA once the anti-ISIS campaign in Sirte has concluded.
To read the Eye On ISIS in Libya Team’s treatment of Western countries’ responses to ISIS in Libya this week, click here. To read their blog post about the actions of other jihadi actors, click here. And to read their explanation of the developments within the anti-ISIS Coalition of Libyan militias, click here.