Heavy fighting raged in the battle for the Libyan capital Tripoli, with neither faction able to secure gains on the front lines as an offensive by eastern commander Khalifa Haftar entered its fifth week. The Libyan National Army (LNA) forces loyal to Haftar moved up on one part of the front earlier this week but was repelled by the Tripoli forces, who had built barriers, including shipping containers, on southern roads where tanks and artillery guns are in position. The Tripoli forces regained some ground but analysts say the threat of the LNA will persist as long as it keep its forward base in Gharyan, about 80 km (50 miles) south of Tripoli. The town is difficult to take because it lies in mountains that rise from the coastal plain on which Tripoli sits.
The LNA, whose principal supporters include Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has sent troops and material to Gharayn by road from Haftar's power base in Benghazi, the main eastern city, or via the central air base in Jufrah, military sources say.
Haftar's push on Tripoli in Libya's northwest is the latest turn in a cycle of factional violence and chaos dating back to the ouster of former President Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 and NATO's aerial operations. Libya has remained dogged by turmoil since 2011 when a NATO-backed uprising led to the ouster and death of Gadhafi after more than four decades in power. Since then, Libya's stark political divisions have yielded two rival seats of power, one in Tobruk and another in Tripoli, and a host of heavily armed militia groups. Haftar is not recognized by the international community, as the elected parliament of the country is centered in Tripoli. However, Haftar, with financial and political support from certain countries, including some Gulf states, is an influential actor in the war-torn country.