Alwaght- Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar has announced a "decisive battle" for the capital, urging his forces to advance towards the center of Tripoli eight months after he launched an offensive to wrest it from the unity government.
Haftar called on his forces on Thursday to launch "the decisive battle and the advance on the heart of the capital to set it free…advance now our heroes."
"Zero hour has come for the broad and total assault expected by every free and honest Libyan," he said.
Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), backed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, France, Russia and Turkey, launched an offensive in April to take control of Tripoli from the government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj.
The offensive has so far killed at least 200 civilians and displaced some 146,000 people, according to the United Nations figures.
Eight months later, Haftar’s forces remain bogged down on the outskirts of Tripoli.
This has been happening despite Saudi Arabia having “promised tens of millions of dollars to help pay for the operation” by Haftar’s forces back then, the Wall Street Journal reported in April.
GNA has situation 'under control'
Serraj's internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) said the situation was "under control" and that its troops were holding their positions in the capital's south to thwart any attack by Haftar's forces.
"We are ready to push back any more mad attempts by the Haftar putsch leader," said GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha.
A spokesman for the GNA’s army, Burkan Mustafa al-Majai, said any attack by Haftar’s forces would be suicidal.
The government, he said, is closely monitoring foreign support for Haftar, which it considers as a violation of the arms embargo prohibiting selling of arms to Libya.
Earlier this month, the United Nations Security Council called on all countries to implement an arms embargo on Libya.
The council urged all countries “not to intervene in the conflict or to take measures that would exacerbate the conflict” and expressed concern at “the growing involvement of mercenaries.”
A long-awaited UN report, however, said recently that UN member states, Jordan, Turkey and the UAE have been systematically arming Haftar's forces.
The North African county has been plunged into chaos since 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, and his execution by unruly fighters.