Sirte and its surrounding region witnessed a week of intense fighting, which has so far led to IS militants consolidating their grip over the area. On Sunday 17 May, local forces from the village of Harawa and the Misratan-led 166th Brigade stationed in Sirte launched an offensive on the radical Islamist stronghold of al-Nufaliyya, in response to a previous attack by IS militants on the nearby village of Harawa. Contrary to expectations, however, radical Islamist militants aligned with the IS have proved, so far, to have the upper hand in battle. IS militants not only rebuffed attempts of the Misratan-led offensive to dislodge them from al-Nufaliyya, but actually overran the key military camp of the 166th Brigade in Sirte, thus gaining almost full control of the city.
Benghazi witnessed a renewed spike in violence. Besides the key flashpoint area of Mreisa and its maritime port, located in the south-western suburbs of the city, fighting was registered in the Sabri, Laithi, Qunfadha, Um Mabrouka and Garyounis districts. In this phase, OD is not only facing remaining elements of the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council, but also an increasing presence of radical Islamist groups and cells aligned with the IS. These groups have been increasingly willing to employ asymmetric and ‘collective punishment’ tactics, including the use of indiscriminate shelling and suicide car bombings against district of Benghazi or neighbouring villages seen as supportive of OD and Haftar. The latest car bombing attack occurred during the past week in the village of Qubbah, which had been targeted through a triple car bomb attack already during the month of February 2015. Further bombing attacks on checkpoints have also been registered in the city of Ajdabiyya, which is increasingly seen as a hotbed for radical Islamist militants in eastern Libya.