The Libyan National Army (LNA), commanded by Khalifa Haftar, announced late on Saturday that it was imposing a “no-fly zone” over the capital, Tripoli.
The zone includes all seven regions that comprise Tripoli and its surroundings. It excludes Mitiga airport, where flights have been suspended indefinitely due to the unrest.
The LNA warned the civil aviation directorate and all aviation companies against flying over these areas, which it designated as military operation zones. Any attempt to fly in the area must be coordinated with the military.
The army had launched in April an operation to liberate Tripoli from criminal and terrorist gangs that are affiliated with the Government of National Accord (GNA).
The no-fly zone should put an end to the use of foreign aircraft that some countries were using to monitor the military situation in Tripoli or support militias there, military sources said.
The LNA move came after several drones had been downed by the military over Libya. Close inspection revealed that they were American, Italian and Turkish aircraft.
LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari linked the imposing of the no-fly zone to the military’s advances on the ground.
Any movement suspected of threatening the people’s security and safety will be confronted by the LNA, he said from the eastern city of Benghazi.
The LNA announcement was seen as dealing a fatal blow to the upcoming international conference on Libya that the United Nations is planning to hold in Berlin in December.
Mismari said: “What takes place in Berlin stays in Berlin.”
“The rifle has the final say on the ground,” he stressed.
He condemned calls on the LNA to hold a ceasefire, saying it has lost more than 7,000 fighters since the Tripoli operation was launched.
“They did not lose their lives for us to sign an agreement through UN envoy Ghassan Salame with the criminal” GNA leader Fayez al-Sarraj, he went on to say.
Italy recently announced that it had lost contact with a drone over Tarhuna city, some 90 kilometers southeast of Tripoli. The LNA had downed a drone north of the city. The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) had announced last week that it had lost contact with a drone over Tripoli.
Meanwhile, the GNA Interior Ministry stated that civil aviation in Libya is safeguarded by national and international laws.
Undersecretary of the GNA Ministry of Transport, Hisham Abushkiwat told local media that no one can impose a no-fly zone over Tripoli and its surroundings. He stressed that regular flights will be resumed within two weeks.