Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos (Solid Structure) forces, mostly militia from Misrata have captured the port in the last remaining stronghold of the Islamic State, the city of Sirte.
The remaining Islamic State fighters are now entirely surrounded within the city. Many had already escaped the city. Earlier numbers placed the numbers of IS fighters at up to 6,000 but this appears an exaggeration.
A residential area in the east of the city was also taken. The fall of Sirte would leave IS without any significant territory in Libya although it could still launch terror attacks and has some presence in Benghazi yet it would seem. Sirte was the home town of Gadaffi and there are many loyalists there.
Fighting is said to be raging around a conference center, the Islamic State headquarters. Air strikes were carried out on the center. It is reported that 11 of the militia forces were killed and 45 wounded on Friday.
Hospitals are overcrowded and in need of medical supplies and apparently planes carrying wounded to Italy have not been allowed to land. Flights to Italy and elsewhere to treat the wounded are being blocked by NATO as mentioned in this tweet: "Outrageous: UN US EU NATO applaud Misrata for battling #ISIS @ Sirte #Libya while blocking evacuation of war wounded"
Brett McGurk, Barack Obama's anti-ISIS envoy said that numbers of ISIS in Libya had probably plateaued at 5,000. There are certainly not that many left in Sirte. McGurk said:“I just don’t want to get ahead of the situation because it remains pretty fluid. But we’re encouraged by the progress they’re making. Once you have a credible force on the ground that moves against them, there is a chance that they could crack pretty quickly".
A recent tweet notes: ISIS in Sirte and their territory that a month ago extended 250km along the coast. Now ISIS is besieged in 20km-square area within #Sirte" The appended map also shows the huge shrinkage in territory controlled by ISIS since May. McGurk is behind the times. Another recent tweet indicates that clashes are ongoing on all fronts: Clashes all fronts East, West & South, heavy clashes within the city of #Sirte - suggestions city will be liberated within days/hrs. #Libya
McGurk said that the US was willing to work with General Haftar, commander in chief of the Libyan National Army associated with the rival House of Representatives (HoR) But McGurk made it clear that Haftar had to recognize the authority of the UN-backed Government of National Accord(GNA). Haftar has made it clear he will not do so until the HoR gives a vote of confidence in the GNA. This is supposed to take place on Monday.
There have been many meetings most without a quorum and two disrupted but without any vote. Haftar has said he will not join with GNA forces until all the militias are disbanded. That is not likely to happen any time soon as the GNA depends upon them for security. Haftar announced about three weeks ago he would liberate Sirte but has not had any clashes with them meanwhile, the Misrata militia from the west and the Petroleum Facilities Guard in the east closed in on Sirte.
A spokesperson for the forces attacking Sirte from the east, Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos (Solid Structure) Mohammed Al-Ghasri confirms that Misrata-led forces forces from the west and Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) from the east have now seized the Harawa district to the east of Sirte.
Al-Ghasri boasted: “The battle for Sirte has been won by our forces, the die is cast, IS militants have completely collapsed and we will free the city in a matter of two days.”
The forces entered into Sirte on Wednesday capturing several military camps including Al-Jalit and Tagreft. They also took control of the Buhadi districts and the Zafaran roundabout where IS hung opponents.
It is only 5 kilometers, about three miles, to the city center. The Misrata militias from the west have now joined up with the PFG forces from the east.
A tweet also announced the takeover of the town ofHarawa:"LibyaschannelEN @LibyaschannelEN #BunyanMarsus Ops Room announces liberation of #Harawa almost exactly one year after the village was seized by #IS."
The Solid Structure forces are loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).
There has been air support for some operations. Inside the city of Sirte the Solid Structure forces are advancing to take the Ougadougou Conference Hall one of the headquarters of the Islamic State. A recent tweet says: Air force bombs #ISIS targets near Ouagadougou Conference Hall as ground forces r preparing to launch a military offensive 2retake the hall.
There have been severe casualties to the Solid Structure forces. A tweet reports: "15 killed + 95 wounded Yesterday vs #daesh #misrata_hospital." There is a dire shortage of medical supplies. In one city not too far from Misrata, Bani Walid, a tweet says the hospital is virtually deserted: " Ali al-Nagrat: Bani Walid hospital is almost deserted because it lacks equipment and medicine". Another tweet has the Presidential Council (PC) of the Government of National Accord (GNA) pleading with the international community for help:"#GNA PC says int'l community has moral responsibility to provide urgent medical aid to forces fighting #IS in #Sirte."
Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) in a recent news release noted the progress against Daesh or the Islamic State and commended those who were fighting against terrorism in all parts of Libya "including in Benghazi and Derna".
Kobler asked for a ceasefire in Benghazi which Khalifa Haftar, commander in chief of the Libyan Natioal Army (LNA) ignored him.
The terrorists in Derna that Haftar is fighting with his Operation Volcano are the Shura Council of Derna Jihadists who deny they have any connection to Al Qaeda and were instrumental in driving the Islamic State out of Derna and surrounding area. Haftar has been bombing Derna for days. I enclose a photo of some of the damage. He characterizes the Council members as part of Al Qaeda.
Events have moved quickly since Kobler's news release and the Islamic State will soon hold no territory in Libya. No doubt there are many sleeper cells throughout the country who will wage terror attacks.
The Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) has yet to vote confidence in the GNA.
Although numerous meetings have been called to do so, they were either lacking a quorum, or were disrupted. No vote has been taken.
A tweet announces that a meeting for a vote will be held on Monday: "Mohamed Eljarh@Eljarh HoR session on Monday announced by Agilah Saleh in #Tobruk. Unlikely that pro-GNA HoR members would join him for the session. #Libya."
Saleh is sanctioned by the EU for actions impeding the implementation of the Libya Political Agreement (LPA). An alleged majority of the HoR have agreed to the GNA in principle. It may be that they fear if they come to Tobruk they will again not be allowed to vote.
It is not at all clear why the HoR is unable to provide security for the vote.
This sets a terrible example for the future role of the HoR as the legislature of the GNA.
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Ken is a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba, Canada, with his Filipina wife. He enjoys reading the news and writing articles. Politically Ken is on the far left of the political spectrum on many issues.