25 – 31 March: GNA launches “Operation Peace Storm”

Apr 1, 2020 | Libyan actors

On 25 March, Government of National Accord (GNA)-aligned forces launched multiple coordinated assaults on Libyan National Army (LNA) forces at Watiya airbase (west of Tripoli), in Abu Grein (east of Misrata) and in the south of Tripoli, in what has been dubbed as “Operation Peace Storm.” These assaults and clashes mark a significant escalation in the year-long conflict. On 28 March, the fighting is thought to have claimed the greatest number of casualties in one day since the LNA launched their assault on Tripoli on 4 April 2019.

On 25 March, forces under the command of GNA Western Military Region and Joint Operations Room Commander Usama Juwaili launched an assault to capture the LNA-held Watiya airbase, located south of Zuwara. However, the attack failed and local LNA forces undertook a counter-attack, capturing the towns of al-Aassa (where Juwaili’s headquarters are situated), Riqdaleen, al-Jamail, and Zelten without any notable clashes — these towns all lie within a 5 – 20km crescent south of Zuwara, meaning the city is effectively surrounded by the LNA.
On 26 March, GNA-aligned forces launched attacks on multiple southern Tripoli frontlines, making minor territorial gains. Heavy clashes were reported in Aziziyya, Ramla, al-Tweisha, Tughar, and Wadi Rabea. Advances were claimed by the GNA on all fronts except Wadi Rabea, where LNA forces successfully repelled them. At the time of reporting, clashes continue on the southern Tripoli frontlines, though no territorial gains have been made since 26 March.
On 27-28 March, heavy fighting occurred on the Abu Grein axis (between Misrata and Sirte), with GNA-aligned forces capturing the ZamZam and al-Qaddahiya areas as they pushed towards Sirte and Jufra in an effort to capture both locations. On 29 March, GNA-aligned aerial drones attacked LNA forces in al-Weskha while LNA aerial attacks targeted GNA forces in Abu Grein. On 29 March, the Misrata Special Emergency Council published a statement criticizing the GNA for not providing support to help Misratan forces conclude the fighting against the LNA around Abu Grein and Sirte.
On 28 March, a GNA-aligned drone aerial attack killed the commander of the LNA’s Greater Sirte Operations Room. On 29 March, the LNA assigned Brigadier Ali Omar al-Megrahi as the new commander of the Greater Sirte Operations Room. The same day, the LNA High Command issued a decree reshuffling several LNA leadership positions.
On 29 March, Libya’s National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed eight cases of COVID-19 in Libya. Both the GNA in Tripoli and the eastern-based parallel government have imposed curfews. All schools and shops, except essential stores, have been shut. All air, land and sea borders are closed, with exemptions for certain people and services.