Timeline: Haftar’s months-long offensive to seize Tripoli

Overview of major events since the launch of a military push by eastern-based forces to capture Libya’s capital.

A months-long offensive by forces loyal to renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar to seize Libya’s capital from the UN-recognised government has killed hundreds of people and drawn increasing foreign involvement.

According to the United Nations, more than 280 civilians and about 2,000 fighters have been killed and 146,000 Libyans displaced.

UN chief Antonio Guterres has slammed continued foreign interference in Libya as a “scandal”.

As world powers push efforts for a ceasefire, here is a timeline of major events since the launch of the Tripoli push in April.


Offensive launched

On April 4, Haftar, the chief of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), orders his troops to capture Tripoli from the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

Haftar supports a parallel administration based in the eastern city of Tobruk and his forces already control the country’s main southern oil fields.

He says the offensive is aimed at “cleansing the western zone from terrorist groups”.

UN: Concern over Tripoli battle

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres meets Haftar on April 5 in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi and expresses “deep concern” over the Tripoli.

“I still hope it is possible to avoid a bloody confrontation in and around Tripoli,” Guterres writes on Twitter after the meeting.

‘Strength and firmness’

GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj says in a televised speech on April 6 that Haftar would meet firm resistance from the forces backing the Tripoli-based government.

“We have extended our hands towards peace but after the aggression that has taken place on the part of forces belonging to Haftar and his declaration of war against our cities and our capital … he will find nothing but strength and firmness,” al-Sarraj says, warning of “a war without winners”.


On April 7, GNA forces announce a counter-offensive against Haftar’s forces.

Colonel Mohamed Gnounou tells reporters in Tripoli that the operation, dubbed Volcano of Anger, is aimed at “purging all Libyan cities of aggressor and illegitimate forces”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expresses Washington’s deep concern and urges talks to end the fighting.

Mitiga airport

LNA fighter jets attack Tripoli’s Mitiga airport on April 8, the city’s only operational airport.

In a statement, Ghassan Salame, the UN envoy to Libya, condemns the LNA’s air raid

“As such, this attack constitutes a serious violation of international humanitarian law which prohibits attacks against civilian infrastructure,” he says.

WATCH: Missiles strike main airport in Libya capital

UN evacuates refugees

On April 9,the UN evacuates 150 refugees from a detention centre in Tripoli, while the fierce fighting leads to the postponement of a planned peace conference.

The UN says the centre has been “impacted by heavy clashes”, adding that the refugees are now in a nearby “safe zone”.

Saudi gives Haftar millions of dollars: Report 

Days before Haftar launched the offensive, Saudi Arabia offered tens of millions of dollars to help pay for the operation, The Wall Street Journal reports on April 12.

The offer came during a visit by Haftar to the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Citing senior advisers to the Saudi government, the Journal says the offer of funds, which was accepted by Haftar, was intended to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders, recruit and pay fighters, and for other military purposes.

WATCH: Protests in Libya against Haftar’s offensive

Trump on Haftar’s role

US President Donald Trump “recognises Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources,” the White House says in statement on April 19.

The statement’s release prompts thousands of people to take to the streets in Tripoli.

“People are very angry,” Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed, reporting from the capital, says. “Thousands of people have come out here on the main streets and squares especially in Tripoli and they are calling on the international community to stop the military aggression by Haftar’s forces.” 

WATCH: Trump praises Haftar in apparent reversal of US policy on Libya

WHO: Death toll reaches 264

The death toll from the ongoing fighting between Libya’s warring sides has risen to 264, the WHO says on April 23.

Some 1,266 people have also been wounded since the beginning of the offensive, Tariq Jarasevic, WHO spokesperson, tells reporters.

UN envoy: ‘Libya a textbook example of foreign intervention’

On May 22, Ghassan Salame, the UN envoy to Libya, denounces the conflict raging in Libya, describing it as a “suicide” that was robbing its inhabitants of the land’s vast oil riches.

The country has become “a textbook example of foreign interference today in local conflicts,” he tells the New York-based International Peace Institute.

“[Between] six and 10 countries are permanently interfering in Libya’s problem,” funnelling arms, cash and military advice to the country, Salame says.

Haftar vows to fight until Tripoli ‘militias’ defeated

Haftar says in an interview published on May 26 that he will continue fighting until militias in Tripoli laid down their arms.

“Of course a political solution is the objective,” Haftar tells the Journal du Dimanche newspaper in France.

“But to return to politics, we need to finish with the militias. The problem in Tripoli is a security one.”

GNA retakes Gharyan

On June 26, the GNA retakes control of Gharyan, a town south of Tripoli, once a base of Haftar’s forces.

WATCH: Libya’s UN-recognised government retakes key town

Haftar bans flights, boats from Turkey

Haftar bans commercial flights to GNA supporter Turkey and orders his forces to attack Turkish ships and interests in the country, spokesperson Ahmed al-Mismari says on June 29.

“Orders have been given to the air force to target Turkish ships and boats in Libyan territorial waters,” al-Mismari says, adding that “Turkish strategic sites, companies and projects belonging to the Turkish state (in Libya) are considered legitimate targets by the armed forces”.

Ankara warns Haftar

Haftar’s LNA says on July 1 its air force destroyed a Turkish drone parked at Mitiga International Airport.

Turkey’s foreign ministry accuses Haftar’s forces of seizing six of its citizens, warning that the LNA will become a “legitimate target” if the Turks are not released immediately.

The six citizens are released on the same day, according to the Turkish foreign ministry.

Dozens of people killed

At least 53 people are killed and 130 others injured on July 2 in the bombing of a refugee and migrant detention centre in Tripoli. The GNA blames Haftar’s forces, which deny responsibility.

WATCH: Libya migrant detention centre attack

WHO: More than 1,000 killed

The battle between rival groups for the Libyan capital has killed more than 1,000 people since it began in April, WHO says on July 9.

Temporary truce

Libya’s warring rivals agree to a temporary truce on August 10 proposed by the UN during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

The UN mission in Libya (UNSMIL) will be responsible for monitoring any violations, the GNA says.

Violation of arms embargo

On November 11, Al Jazeera obtains a draft copy of UN report which reveals that member states – the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Turkey and Jordan – have violated the arms embargo in Libya.

US calls on Haftar to end Tripoli push

On November 15, the US calls on ;Haftar to stop the months-long offensive on Tripoli and says it would back the GNA against “Russia’s attempts to exploit the conflict”.

Haftar declares ‘no-fly zone’ over Tripoli

Haftar declares a “no-fly zone” in the skies over the capital on November 23, drawing a warning from the GNA.

Mitiga, Tripoli’s only functioning airport, is exempt for humanitarian reasons.

In response to the LNA’s declaration, the GNA-affiliated interior ministry says in a statement that any action threatening civil aviation and airports “amounts to crimes punishable under national and international law”.

Libya, Turkey sign deals

Turkey and Libya on November 27 sign two agreements on security and military cooperation and restriction of marine jurisdictions.

Other Mediterranean countries express alarm.

GNA cites evidence of Russian mercenaries in war

GNA officials say on December 5 that they plan to confront Moscow over the alleged deployment of Russian mercenaries to fight alongside their opponents.

The GNA says it has documented between 600 and 800 Russian mercenaries in Libya and is collecting their names on a list to present to the Russian government, according to Khaled al-Meshri, head of the GNA’s Supreme Council of State.

New ‘decisive’ battle

On December 12, Haftar announces the start of a new “decisive” battle to seize Tripoli.

“Zero hour has come for the broad and total assault expected by every free and honest Libyan,” Haftar says in a televised address. 

“Today, we announce the decisive battle and the advancement towards the heart of the capital to set it free … advance now our heroes.” 

Libya’s GNA accepts Turkish offer for military support: Sources

Turkey will increase military support to GNA if needed

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says on December 22 that Turkey will increase its military support to the GNA if necessary.

“We will evaluate all kinds of military support including ground, marine and air options if necessary,” Erdogan says in the northwestern province of Kocaeli.

Arab League warns against ‘foreign interference’

On December 31, The Arab League calls for efforts to “prevent foreign interference” in Libya in the wake of the military and maritime agreements signed between Turkey and the GNA.

Permanent representatives of the pan-Arab organisation, in a meeting at its Cairo headquarters requested by Egypt, pass a resolution stressing the “necessity to prevent interference that could contribute to facilitating the arrival of foreign extremists in Libya”.

WATCH: What role will Turkey play in Libya?


Troops deployment

On January 2, Turkey’s Parliament authorises a one-year deployment of troops to Libya to support the GNA.

Haftar issues ‘call to arms’

Haftar on January 4 calls on Libyans to take up arms in response to Turkey’s military intervention in support of the GNA.

“We accept the challenge and declare jihad and a call to arms,” says Haftar in a televised address. 

He urged “all Libyans” to bear arms, “men and women, soldiers and civilians, to defend our land and our honour”.

Turkey starts deployment

Erdogan on January 5 says Turkey has started deploying military troops to Libya.

“There will be an operation centre [in Libya], there will be a Turkish lieutenant general leading and they will be managing the situation over there. [Turkish soldiers] are gradually moving there right now,” Erdogan tells private broadcaster CNN Turk during an interview.

Haftar’s forces capture Sirte

Haftar’s forces capture the coastal city of Sirte on January 6 from a militia aligned with the rival GNA.

Khaled al-Mahjoub, LNA spokesman, says the fighters captured “all the districts surrounding the city”, including al-Qardabiya airbase, before moving towards the city centre.

GNA-aligned forces say they quit Sirte

The Sirte Protection Force, a GNA ally, says it has retreated from Sirte on January 7.

“After studying the situation, our forces took a decision to withdraw outside Sirte, then await orders,” the Sirte Protection Force says in a statement.

“Our forces still retain their full capabilities and our withdrawal from Sirte is not the end.”

Fragile ceasefire

Russia and Turkey call for a ceasefire in Libya to begin at 22:00 GMT on January 11. Both warring sides welcome it but accuse each other of violations.

Moscow talks

Libya’s two rival leaders go to Moscow for talks on January 13 aimed at formalising the ceasefire.

Al-Sarraj signs the deal but the talks end in a stalemate as Haftar asks for more time to consider the accord and then abruptly leaves.

WATCH: Libya talks in Russia: Haftar consulting allies on truce deal

Peace conference in Berlin

On January 19, German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted a Libya peace conference in Berlin. It was attended by Turkey, Russia, the UAE and Egypt, and included representatives from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Congo, Algeria, United Nations, and African Union.

Al-Sarraj and his rival Khalifa Haftar were briefed on the discussions but did not meet face to face or participate, Merkel said.

All participating parties signed a 55-point communique, in which they also pledged to respect a UN-imposed arms embargo. The Berlin summit conclusionshave been sent to the UN Security Council to approve and adopt.

Libya rivals, world powers talk peace at Berlin summit

Algeria hosts African foreign ministers on Libya conflict

The Algiers meeting of ministers from Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan, Chad, Mali and Niger on January 23 was aimed at shoring up a ceasefire.

“We agreed on many principles,” Sabri Boukadoum, the Algerian foreign minister told Al Jazeera. “The only solution to the Libyan crisis is a peaceful solution, a political solution. The solution must be a Libyan solution with support from the international community.”

Deadly clashes east of Misrata upset ceasefire

On January 26, heavy fighting broke out between Libya’s rival governments, as Khalifa Haftar’s forces advanced 120km (75 miles) east of Misrata city and seized control of the town of Abu Grein.

At least 11 soldiers belonging to the GNA were killed and 100 others wounded in clashes with Haftar’s LNA forces. The GNA responded by taking back control of Abu Grein and advancing into LNA areas to seize the town of Zamzam.

There were still no reports on the number of casualties on Haftar’s side.

Libyan rivals hold UN-sponsored talks

On February 3, the 10-member Libya Joint Military Commission (also known as the 5+5 military commission) met in Geneva to begin UN-led talks.

Five senior officers appointed by the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) and five appointed by renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar participated in the talks, the UN said in a statement. The joint military commission is the reuslt of the high-level meeting held in Berlin last month.

Geneva talks end with no end in sight to fighting

The first round of talks between the GNA and LNA in Geneva ended on Feburary 9 with no breakthrough, the UN said.

The talks, which were mediated by UN Special Envoy Ghassan Salame, did not include face-to-face meetings.

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya said it thanked the two parties for agreeing to come to Geneva as well as their “high professional and positive spirit” throughout the discussions.

African Union summit discuss Libya

On February 9, the 33rd African Union (AU) summit took place in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, and focused on ways to end regional violence in Libya as well as South Sudan.

African Union: Leaders discuss Libya peace force

UN votes on resolution supporting Libya ceasefire

On February 12, the United Nations Security Council passed on a resolution demanding the warring parties commit to a “lasting ceasefire…without pre-conditions” as well as endorsing a 55-point plan for ending the war in Libya.

The British-drafted resolution insists on full compliance with a UN arms embargo that has been repeatedly broken, as called for in the plan approved by leaders of 12 world powers and other key countries that met on January 19 in Berlin.

Ceasefire talks resume in Geneva

On February 18, talks resumed in the latest attempt to forge a political deal between the GNA and Haftar’s forces, a few days after a woman was killed in Tripoli after forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar shelled parts of the Libyan capital.

Libya’s GNA suspending ceasefire talks after Tripoli port attack

On February 19, Libya’s internationally recognised government has said it is suspending its participation in ceasefire negotiations hosted by the United Nations in Geneva, hours after an attack by Khalifa Haftar’s forces on the capital’s port.

Ghassan Salame, head of the UN Libya mission, called the port attack a “big breach” of the fragile – and repeatedly violated – ceasefire that was brokered by Russia and Turkey on January 12 as part of efforts to de-escalate the battle for the capital.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies