In Benghazi, the areas of Sabri and Souq al-Hout, adjacent to the port in the centre of the city, are the final enclaves controlled by the loose jihadist coalition of Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council (BRSC) and Islamic State (ISIS) fighters. Last week, conflict intensified there as the Libyan National Army (LNA) ramped up airstrikes and artillery fire against the area. On 2 April, a bridge at al-Lathama on the coastal road leading into eastern Sabri was destroyed. The LNA claim that jihadists blew up the bridge to halt the LNA’s westward advance, while the BRSC claimed the bridge was destroyed by LNA airstrikes. The same day, an LNA fighter and a civilian were killed by a sniper as they crossed the Jilyana bridge, east of Benghazi port. On 1 April, two civilians were killed when a landmine exploded in Benghazi’s Gwarsha district.
In Sirte, a semblance of normality is starting to return to the city post-ISIS. Approximately 10,000 families have reportedly returned to their homes, full power, and telecommunications access has now been restored, and the flow of water from the Man Made River into the city’s water tanks has resumed. However, although ISIS has been driven out of Sirte, the city effectively remains a no-man’s land between Misrata and the LNA forces in the Oil crescent, and could easily become the site of fresh conflict between the rival factions.
In Derna, intermittent clashes continue to take place between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and the Derna Mujahedeen Shura Council (DMSC) in Dahra al-Hamra south of the city. The DMSC issued a new statement on 1 April reiterating its hostility to Haftar and recognising Libya’s Dar al-Ifta, under the leadership of Grand Mufti Sadeq al-Ghariani, as Libya’s only legitimate authority. On 29 March, Saleh Joudah, the LNA commander of Tobruk’s Gamel Abdul-Nasser airbase, and at least two civilians were killed when Joudah’s jet crashed into a house near Tobruk. Joudah was apparently returning to the Tobruk airbase from a bombing raid on Derna when according to the LNA, his plane suffered technical difficulties.
Reports on 30 March and 1 April indicate that supplies of arms and ammunitions reached the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) at their Jufra airbase in south-west Libya. This is reportedly in preparation for a new counterattack against the LNA forces in the Oil Crescent. The LNA’s denouncement of locals who allied with the BDB as traitors has created some resentment locally. This may motivate local tribes to support the BDB in order to sabotage the LNA’s control of the area.
To read about the international community’s responses to jihadis in Libya this week, click here. To read the Eye on ISIS team’s explanation of the developments within the anti-ISIS Coalition of Libyan militias, click here. To read all four sections of this week’s Eye on ISIS in Libya report, click here. To subscribe to receive this report weekly into your inbox, sign up on the subscribe page.