Haftar forces put military ops on hold for Ramadan

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Libya’s eastern-based forces will cease fire for Ramadan, a spokesman said after suffering setbacks during intense fighting against the internationally recognised government.

Libyan National Army (LNA) spokesman Ahmed Mismari said in a television broadcast  the ceasefire was at the request of the international community and “friendly countries”.

Both the LNA and the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) said twice this year they would stop fighting, but there was a sharp escalation last month.

Libya has been split since 2014 between the GNA in Tripoli and other areas of the north-west, and a parallel administration in Benghazi.

LNA commander Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive  a year ago to capture Tripoli. Pro-GNA forces this month took back several areas with Turkish military support using drones to target eastern supply lines.

The LNA, supported by the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt, was shelling the capital in a campaign that drew repeated rebukes from the UN.

Hospitals in parts of Tripoli held by the GNA were repeatedly hit by shelling, despite the threat posed by coronavirus.

Human Rights Watch said the LNA last year targeted a biscuit factory, killing eight civilians in an attack it called “apparently unlawful”. The LNA has not commented.

There was no immediate GNA response to the LNA ceasefire declaration, with Mismari saying the eastern-based forces reserve the right to respond to attacks. Ramadan, Islam’s holy fasting month, began last week.

It comes at a moment of political uncertainty in the eastern camp, with Haftar declaring on Monday the army would take power and discard a 2015 political agreement – the basis for all international peacemaking efforts.

Egypt and Russia, two main LNA supporters, neither endorsed nor rejected the move, with Haftar yet to spell out how the new government would operate or what relation it would have to the eastern-based parliament.

Haftar is widely regarded as controlling eastern Libya despite nominal governance by a civilian administration.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said “we do not approve of the statement that field marshal Haftar will alone decide how the Libyan people will live,” but tempered his remarks with criticism of the GNA.

Egypt, which sees Haftar as a bulwark against their common enemy the Muslim Brotherhood, stressed the necessity of a political solution to Libya’s conflict.