Libya’s GNA Shooting Down Haftar Jets Will Cause More Libyan Turmoil

Libya’s U.N.-backed government said two fighter jets and a helicopter belonging to Khalifa Haftar were shot down on Sunday, April 12th. After Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011 during the Libyan Civil War, the fight for power has been between two groups: the Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Libyan National Army (LNA). 

The GNA is Libya’s interim government, put in place by the U.N. in December 2015. The LNA, a part of Libya’s military forces, is under the command of Haftar, who was elected by the Libyan House of Representatives. Last April, Haftar launched his offense to seize GNA-controlled Tripoli. Days after Haftar’s advance occurred, the GNA announced a counter-offensive dubbed Volcano of Anger. Since Haftar’s offensive, more than 2,000 people have been killed and 146,000 displaced, according to The Guardian.

Both sides’ acceptance of the U.N.’s call for a ceasefire, due to the spread of coronavirus, were short-lived. On March 25th, Tripoli residents said the shelling from LNA attacks “was the worst in weeks, shaking doors and windows in the city centre several miles from the front line,” according to Reuters. The GNA responded to these attacks with the launch of Operation Peace Storm. The call for a ceasefire is too hopeful. With almost a decade of civil unrest under Libya’s belt, the presence of coronavirus acts as a curtain the two Libyan fronts can hide behind. “Haftar is taking advantage of the world being preoccupied to escalate,” photojournalist Amru Salahuddien told the LA Times

Both GNA and LNA are backed by a number of foreign assistants. GNA is supported not only by the U.N., but by Turkey, Italy, and Qatar. LNA has many power-players behind it including Egypt, France, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates. The fight for authority, power, and oil will not be halted because of coronavirus, especially with this many countries involved. The GNA’s shooting down of the LNA aircrafts may just be the rebirth of the violence in Libya it started to see a year ago. Since April 12th, the GNA has taken back cities run by LNA, killing eight Haftar loyalists. Tripoli has seen heavy bombardments, injuring at least 10 civilians on April 18.

The rise of coronavirus and the upswing in the number of attacks go hand-in-hand. Perhaps positively for the leaders of the fronts, but negatively for the residents of Libya. As cities are being attacked, health centers and places of shelter are being ruined, forcing people to go against social distancing recommendations. If Libya, and the countries fighting proxy wars within it, want to stop the spread of coronavirus, they should uphold the ceasefire recommended by the U.N., for everyone’s sake. 


Maria Kuiper