LNA Denies Haftar Seeking to Allow Russia to Set up Military Base in Libya

LNA commander Khalifa Haftar is seen with Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-bek Yevkurov during the former’s visit to Russia in September. (AFP)
LNA commander Khalifa Haftar is seen with Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-bek Yevkurov during the former’s visit to Russia in September. (AFP)
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LNA Denies Haftar Seeking to Allow Russia to Set up Military Base in Libya

LNA commander Khalifa Haftar is seen with Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-bek Yevkurov during the former’s visit to Russia in September. (AFP)
LNA commander Khalifa Haftar is seen with Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-bek Yevkurov during the former’s visit to Russia in September. (AFP)

An informed source in the Libyan National Army (LNA), commanded by Khalifa Haftar, denied to Asharq Al-Awsat that the military was planning on reaching an agreement with Russia to allow it to set up a military base in the country.

Bloomberg had reported that Russia was seeking to strike a defense agreement between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Haftar when the latter visited Moscow in September.

It quoted sources as saying that Haftar "was looking for air-defense systems to protect him against rival forces in Tripoli, who have been backed by Türkiye's military."

"He also wants training for his air force pilots and special forces," they said. "In return, a handful of air bases currently occupied by Wagner paramilitaries will be upgraded to host Russian forces."

"Russian warships may also get permanent docking rights at a Libyan port, most likely Tobruk, located just a few hundred kilometers across the Mediterranean from Greece and Italy, according to other people with knowledge of the talks," reported Bloomberg.

A week before his talks with Putin, Haftar met with commander of US forces in Africa General Michael Langley and current US special envoy to Libya Richard Norland. They pressed him to remove foreign forces from Libya.

A military source close to Haftar told Asharq Al-Awsat that the army was "playing its role in protecting Libya from foreign occupation."

Speaking on condition of anonymity, it stressed that the military cooperation agreements with Russia don’t include granting it any facilitations to set up military bases.

"Such misleading reports are aimed at diverting attention from foreign military presence in the country," it added, referring to Turkish and American forces at the Mitiga base in Tripoli and in the al-Watiya base, as well as Italian and British forces at the Misrata air base.

Haftar did not comment on the reports during his meeting on Monday with a delegation of elders and tribal leaders at his headquarters in the eastern city of Benghazi.



Israeli Forces Pull Back after Gaza City Offensive, Leaving Dozens of Bodies

Palestinians gather as they inspect the damages after Israeli forces withdrew from a part of Gaza City, following a ground operation, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Gaza City, July 12, 2024. REUTERS/Dawoud Abu Alkas
Palestinians gather as they inspect the damages after Israeli forces withdrew from a part of Gaza City, following a ground operation, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Gaza City, July 12, 2024. REUTERS/Dawoud Abu Alkas
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Israeli Forces Pull Back after Gaza City Offensive, Leaving Dozens of Bodies

Palestinians gather as they inspect the damages after Israeli forces withdrew from a part of Gaza City, following a ground operation, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Gaza City, July 12, 2024. REUTERS/Dawoud Abu Alkas
Palestinians gather as they inspect the damages after Israeli forces withdrew from a part of Gaza City, following a ground operation, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Gaza City, July 12, 2024. REUTERS/Dawoud Abu Alkas

Israeli forces retreated from some Gaza City districts overnight after a fierce, week-long military offensive, leaving dozens of dead and wrecked homes and roads in the Palestinian enclave's biggest urban area, residents and rescue service said on Friday.

The offensive, 10 months into Israel's campaign to eliminate Hamas militants, took place as US-backed mediators sought to finalize a peace deal that would free remaining hostages taken by the militants in their cross-border rampage on Oct. 7.

According to Reuters, the Gaza Civil Emergency Service said teams had collected around 60 bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces over the past week from the area of Tel Al-Hawa and the edges of the Sabra neighborhood in Gaza City.

Both residents and rescue teams cautioned that while tanks withdrew from some areas, Israeli snipers and tanks continued to control high ground at some locations, and warned residents against trying to return to their homes in those areas.

"There are bodies scattered in the streets, dismembered bodies, there are bodies of entire families, there are also bodies inside a home of an entire family that was completely burned," Gaza Strip Civil Defense spokesperson Mahmoud Basal said in comments carried by media in Hamas-run Gaza.

The Israeli military had said on Thursday that its forces were working to dismantle Hamas capabilities in Gaza City, and that it "follows international law and takes feasible precautions to mitigate civilian harm." It said the same was not true of Hamas.

The armed wings of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad said they had fought fierce battles against Israeli forces, attacking them with anti-tank rockets and mortar fire, killing and wounding many. There has been no Israeli army comment on those claims.

Home to more than a quarter of Gaza's residents before the war, Gaza City was largely razed to the ground in late 2023, but hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have returned to homes in the ruins. Israel has once again ordered them out, though it is unclear where residents can go safely. Israel controls most of Gaza's borders and is also attacking central and southern Gaza.