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Mysterious Cargo Planes Are Flying into Libya, is a Proxy War Coming?

Haftar forces receiving the cargo plane. (Youtube screenshot)
Haftar forces receiving the cargo plane. (Youtube screenshot)

“What we’re seeing are lots of players coming into Libya. It’s a recipe that’s almost heading to a Yemen scenario. We’re beginning to see a proxy war emerging.”

An investigative report by Al Jazeera Arabic TV revealed Monday that mysterious cargo planes were flying clandestinely into bases controlled by the 75-year-old Libyan rebel military chief, Khalifa Haftar, and dropping off “payloads” just before Haftar launched an offensive into the capital city of Tripoli.

Khalifa Haftar in a 2017 interview with France 24 (YouTube screenshot)

Khalifa Haftar in a 2017 interview with France 24 (YouTube screenshot)

Cargo Planes Arrive to Support Haftar

The TV report showed satellite images and flight data of two Russian-made Ilyushin 76 aircraft registered to a joint Emirati-Kazakh company called Reem Travel making a number of trips between Egypt, Israel and Jordan before landing at Hatfar’s military bases, in early April. The planes arrived just before the Libyan National Army (LNA) of Haftar attempted to take control of Tripoli.

Libya is currently subject to an arms embargo, imposed by the United Nations, since an armed civil war ripped through the country in 2011, following the overthrow and killing of Libya’s long-time dictator president, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

According to Al Jazeera, a video published by Haftar’s forces shows one of the planes landing at the LNA’s Tamanhant military base in southern Libya. The plane took off from Haftar’s stronghold city of Benghazi, east of Libya.

“With the tracking of the number, we detected a suspicious course of the aircraft that circulates almost regularly between Jordan, Israel and Egypt prior to its appearance in Libya, as shown by the air navigation and surveillance technology ADS-B,” the investigation said.

YouTube screenshot of the video published by Haftar’s forces showing one of the planes landing at the LNA’s Tamanhant military base in southern Libya.

Libya Could be the Next Yemen

The report quoted Bill Law, an analyst with the online magazine, Gulf Matters, as saying that such an investigative report shows that the current conflict in Libya is aggravating rapidly.

“What we’re seeing are lots of players coming into Libya. It’s a recipe that’s almost heading to a Yemen scenario. We’re beginning to see a proxy war emerging. We’re looking at a pretty bleak situation. In this situation of a vacuum, you see players emerge and we’re seeing this now,” Law told Al Jazeera.

Aljazeera’s reporting comes against the backdrop of resumed heavy battles early this week near the center of Tripoli. An aid to LNA’s chief of staff, Saraj al-Majbri, told Al Jazeera that his troops have won gains in the area of Salah al-Deen, a few kilometers away from Tripoli’s downtown.

Over the past several years, Libya has withstood a fierce rivalry between Khalifa Haftar, who is in control of the east and much of the south, and the internationally-backed Prime Minister, Fayez al-Sarraj, who is in charge of a weak government in Tripoli.

Haftar has insisted that his army’s offensives will continue unabated, as long as the government of National Accord (GNA), remains in power in Tripoli. So far, both Haftar and his rival, have failed to reach a compromise, despite six rounds of talks between the two sides.

Crates marked from Al Bayda city were delivered by the IL-76 plane (Screenshot via YouTube)

Crates marked from Al Bayda city were delivered by the IL-76 plane (Screenshot via YouTube)

The Destabilizing of Tripoli

Earlier this week, the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, said that Haftar’s military offensive near Tripoli had destabilized daily lives, with schooling and other services suspended.

On Wednesday, a United Nations envoy to Libya accused unnamed international players of getting involved either directly or indirectly in exporting weaponry to Libya, thus violating recent U.N. Security Council resolutions pertaining to the troubled country.

According to U.N. statistics, the current battle over Tripoli has claimed the lives of at least 562 Libyans, including 40 civilians. Since the beginning of Haftar’s offensive in Tripoli in early April, tens of thousands of people have been forcibly displaced, UN estimates suggest.

Back in 2011, Libyan masses took to the streets demanding economic reforms by the former regime of Muammar Gaddafi. Since then and right after the ousting and lynching of Gaddafi in public, the North African Arab country has been trapped in a civil war. International intervention has yet to bring calm to the 1,770 km-long coastal Mediterranean nation.

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Rami Almeghari

Rami Almeghari is a freelance independent writer, journalist and lecturer, based in the Gaza Strip. Rami has contributed in English to several media outlets worldwide, including print, radio and TV. He can be reached on facebook as Rami Munir Almeghari and on email as [email protected]

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