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Tripoli: Major Battle for Control of Libya’s Capital May Be on the Horizon

Published: July 16, 2017
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The three power houses in the country have all had their sights set on the capital, with each enjoying backing from external powers.

(MEE) — As chaos reigns in Libya, with competing authorities continuing to vie for power, the battle for Tripoli appears to have begun anew.

Clashes broke out earlier this week, in the east of the capital city, between forces loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and those loyal to the National Guard of the Salvation Government (SG).

The capital is an important target for warring sides in the region, offering control over strategic assets such as the Libyan Central Bank, the air and sea ports in the city, as well as all other institutions.

The Garabulli region, where the clashes took place, is considered a strategic gateway into the city, and fighting there may have been intended to be the start of a wider battle.

“The clashes in Garabulli are the demonstration that the forces that coalesce around the National Salvation Government … will not give up easily, despite the repeated military defeats they have suffered,” Mattia Toaldo, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told MEE.

The clashes left at least four dead and over 20 injured, according to the UN-backed government’s health ministry, with the SG forces being pushed further from the city.

The UN-backed Presidential Council (PC), which presides over the GNA, is headed by Fayaz al-Sarraj, a figure who has remained controversial since his entry into Libya in March 2016.

The Government of National Accord has met resistance from many groups, including some of those involved in these latest clashes.

Both sides have accused the other of starting the battle, with the pro-GNA side accusing the SG-linked forces, which had been positioned in the Garabulli region, of embarking on an attempt to advance into the capital, while the SG forces say the GNA did the provoking.

The National Guard of the Salvation Government receives most of its support from militias from the city of Misrata, about 200km east of Tripoli. It has been accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, accusations which it has denied. 

Libya’s power houses

Whilst the international community recognises the Government of National Accord’s PC as the representative body of the country, the country is split in its support three main ways.

The PC, based in the country’s western capital city Tripoli, was welcomed by much of the population with great optimism, taking over as it did during a time of great financial crisis and instability.

However, over the year and four months in which it has been somewhat in power, public opinion of al-Sarraj and his government has plummeted.



Next is the Government of National Salvation, which presides over the General National Congress elected in 2012, and which is also in Tripoli.

Finally, there is the third grouping in the east of the country, comprising various authorities, including military forces loyal to renegade general Khalifa Haftar and the House of Representatives.

All three have failed to engage in successful peace-making efforts, while Haftar has repeatedly issued threats that his forces would soon take over Tripoli, most recently in May.

Is the battle for Tripoli a proxy war?

The three power houses in the country have all had their sights set on the capital, with each enjoying backing from external powers.

The UN-backed GNA has the support of the United States and most of the international community, and is recognised as the only representative government, but Tripoli has


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