BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) – Libyan National Army (LNA) forces have decided to retire 2-3km (1.2 miles-1.9 miles) from all front lines in Tripoli from midday, their spokesman said early on Wednesday, after suffering sharp reverses in their campaign to capture the city.
“We decided to move our forces in all battlefronts in Tripoli a distance of 2-3 kilometres” to allow citizens to move more freely during the end of Ramadan and in the run-up to the Eid al-Fitr holiday, Ahmed al-Mismari said.
Mismari called on the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), whose forces the LNA is fighting, to do the same but did not say whether its own withdrawal was contingent on it doing so. The GNA has yet to comment.
In its biggest advance in a year, the GNA on Monday captured Watiya airbase, an important LNA stronghold and its only major airbase near to Tripoli, along with an abandoned Russian-made Pantsir air defence system.
On Tuesday, it took the towns of Badr and Tiji in western Libya as the LNA said it had moved out of some positions in Tripoli, where the front lines have been mostly static for nearly a year.
The eastern-based LNA is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia. The GNA is backed by Turkey.
The acting United Nations Libya envoy on Tuesday urged the Security Council to pressure foreign actors to stop helping the warring parties there, warning the flood of arms and fighters into Libya would only intensify fighting.
The UAE said in a statement the only acceptable path forward in Libya involved “an immediate, comprehensive ceasefire and a return to the political process”.
Reporting By Ayman al-Warfali; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Lincoln Feast.