The Libyan National Army (LNA) has forced the Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB) off the oil ports of Ras Lanuf and Es Sider less than two weeks after being battled out.
LNA under the command of Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar has been preparing for a counter-offensive since last week, mobilizing “a very large air and ground” force.
The United Nations said on Tuesday the latest fighting around the Oil Crescent had been marked by human rights violations including unlawful killings and arbitrary detentions.
LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari said the BDB have fled the coastal ports for towns more than 100km away. It is unclear if the oil ports will be handed over to the National Oil Corporation (NOC) after Mismari asserted that it was not guaranteed but added that Chairman Naji al-Maghrabi of the breakaway National Oil Corporation that was established last year would inspect the facilities before any decision is made.
The state-owned NOC is based in Tripoli and efforts to reach a unification deal with the NOC allied with Tobruk failed last year following the latter’s request for the headquarters to be transferred to Benghazi. Eastern factions have tried to sell oil independently by bypassing NOC-Tripoli but have been blocked by international sanctions that are still in place.
The fight for the control of oil ports is not expected to come to an end anytime soon because the revenue generated from it could provide stronger military prowess to the force that controls it.
Meanwhile, Russia has refuted claims that it is preparing to send its troops into Libya to fight on the sidelines of LNA. There are reports that a team of Special Forces and drones have been deployed to a military base in Egypt; 100 kilometers away from the border with Libya. Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said it is news to him while International Affairs lawmaker Vladimir Dzhabarov described the reports as “fake news.” The deputy head of the state Duma defense committee, Andrei Krasov, said the reports “must be a deliberate act of misinformation” aimed at raising international tensions.