A fighter loyal to the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) points his gun toward enemy lines during clashes with forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar, in Espiaa, south of the Libyan capital Tripoli, Aug. 21, 2019.
FILE - A fighter loyal to the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord points his gun toward enemy lines during clashes with forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar, in Espiaa, south of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, Aug. 21, 2019.

CAIRO - Libya's eastern military commander, General Khalifa Hafter, who began a fresh push to try to capture Tripoli during the past several days, was reported Saturday to have advanced in and around the city. 

Amateur video on Arab TV channels appeared to show forces loyal to Hafter moving on several strategic locations in the capital.  

Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV, which supports Hafter, said his forces had captured the suburb of Ain Zara, as well as a militia base under the control of forces loyal to the Tripoli government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. VOA could not independently confirm the claims. 

Sarraj's interior minister, Fathi Bashaga, told Turkish media that his forces were capable of defending Tripoli, but he complained that Hafter was receiving military help from the Russian mercenary Wagner Group, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

However, the spokesman for Hafter's forces, Colonel Ahmed Almasmari, decried what he called Turkish intervention in the conflict. 

He said Libya wanted to tell the world that Turkey had sent weapons and was storing them in civilian areas of the Islamist militia-controlled port city of Misrata, and that his forces would not target them now because of the civilian nature of the area but could do so in the future.

Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, told VOA that Serraj was trying to encourage Turkey to intervene more forcefully in the conflict, but that he doubted Ankara would go further than sending weapons. 

He said threats of Turkish intervention were not based on reality because U.N. sanctions on Libya likely would make Ankara think twice about doing more than sending weapons and some advisers. 
 
Abou Diab noted that "the U.S. is worried about Russian intervention in Libya, and is hesitant about supporting Hafter, while France, Egypt, Russia and the UAE have been supporting Hafter since his first attempt to capture Tripoli in April."  

"Italy," he added, "was initially hostile to Hafter, but has become less so recently." 
 
Russian Middle East analyst Yevgeni Sidrov told Al Arabiya that "Turkish talk about intervening in Libya is mostly for internal consumption.” He doubted Ankara would intervene without clearing the move with Moscow, which he said would never agree to it. 

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