Libya's UN-backed government launched Operation Peace Storm in March to counter attacks on the capital and recently regained strategic locations in a major blow to warlord Haftar's militia.
After retaking the country's main airport, the Libyan Army on Thursday announced the complete liberation of the capital Tripoli, while its forces move into another city to the southeast, the last stronghold for warlord Khalifa Haftar in western Libya.
"Tripoli has been liberated and fully secured, and we have reached the administrative borders of the city of Tarhuna, southeast of the capital,” said Mustafa al Majei, the spokesperson of the Burkan al Ghadab (Volcano of Rage) Operation.
Majei confirmed that the Libyan Army has entered the Fam Malgha area of Turhuna, 90 kilometres from Tripoli.
“The military vehicles of putschist Khalifa Haftar’s militia have been seen withdrawing from Tarhuna towards the city of Bani Walid,” 180 km southeast of Tripoli, Majei added.
Operation Peace Storm
In March, the Libyan government launched Operation Peace Storm to counter attacks on the capital, and recently regained strategic locations, including the Watiya air base, in a major blow to Haftar's militia.
Libya's government was founded in 2015 under a UN-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political settlement failed due to the military offensive by Haftar’s militia.
On Wednesday, the Libyan army of the internationally recognized government managed to retake Tripoli airport from Haftar's militias.
The airport was closed in 2014 following heavy fighting that destroyed much of it. For years, flights were diverted to the Mitiga airport, which has been shut down several times since last year due to heavy shelling blamed on Haftar’s militia.
The fall of the Tripoli airport attests to the seesaw nature of the fighting between the GNA and Haftar's militia. In recent months, GNA-allied militias backed by Turkey, Italy and Qatar have recaptured some key towns surrounding the capital.
However, Haftar's militia, supported by Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, has responded with a series of air strikes.
Earlier this week, his militia recaptured a key town that it had lost two weeks earlier to its rivals.
The North African country slid into civil war following the ouster and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
On Monday, the UN support mission in Libya announced the warring parties had agreed to resume cease-fire talks.
On Wednesday, the UN acting special representative Stephanie Williams held talks with a delegation representing Haftar’s militia to follow-up on the agreement. Williams is expected to hold similar talks with the west-based government in “the coming days,” the UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
The recent escalation of violence comes against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic. Libya has about 170 confirmed cases but testing remains scarce.
There are fears that a large outbreak would have a severe impact given the protracted conflict and the country’s poor healthcare system.