As the Egyptian Armed Forces continued its air assaults in Libya, Egyptian army spokesman Tamer al-Rifai said that those attacks were not restricted to the coastal town of Derna but they would target any place where terrorists are trained to shake Egypt’s stability.
Al-Rifai said, “The Egyptian air strikes target all camps where terrorist members are being trained and which could threaten Egypt’s national security.”
Last Friday, Egypt carried out airstrikes on Derna following the shooting of Coptic Christians in Minya, Upper Egypt, resulting in the death of 29 civilians.
However, media reports stated that Egyptian planes may have also carried out attacks on the Jufra air base held by Mistratan forces together with members of the Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB).
There are also media reports of buildings in nearby Houn (Hun) and Waddan being hit, including the municipal buildings in Houn.
“Libya’s Houn town woke up Sunday dawn on sovereignty-breaching airstrikes targeting several locations in the vicinity of Jufra city,”according to Libya Observer.
Houn was the epicenter for the inexplicable air-attacks, as it received air raids on locations like Al-Mujahid Brigade and Tagreft Brigade, which are part of Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos operation that rooted out IS from Sirte.
Libya Observer reported that the airstrikes – possibly Egyptian – also targeted an ammo depot in a camp run by Tagreft Brigade, leading to the explosion of the ammunition setting off the shrapnel all over the town.
Local sources said,”Many explosions followed the air raids gradually as the ammunition and Grad rockets went off in different areas in the town.”
The sources remarked,”One rocket at least was exploded in the former military command building and another went off in the open in Houn.”
The airstrikes also targeted another location – arms depot – near by Tagreft Brigade. No reports about any human loss by the air attacks so far.
Who Is Al-Sisi Battling for in Libya?
Following Christians attack last Friday, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said the Egyptian armed forces have struck “terrorist training camps” in retaliation for an attack on Coptic Christians.
On Friday, gunmen attacked a bus carrying worshipers in central Egypt, killing at least 28 people and wounding 25 others.
Al-Sisi stated that he would “not hesitate to strike terrorist camps anywhere.”
In a televised speech, Al-Sisi said that he promise to “protect our people from the evil.”
In response, Derna Shura Council has issued a statement denying involvement in the horrific attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt’s Minya Friday.
The statement reads,”It is not our policy to target unarmed civilians in Libya, or in Egypt.”
It adds that Egypt’s airstrikes on Derna were a diversion to the Egyptian public from Al-Sisi’s failure to address the security and economic crises in his country.
The Islamic State (IS) published a statement on Saturday claiming responsibility for the attack.
“A security team of caliphate soldiers set up an ambush for dozens of Christians as they headed to the church of St. Samuel,” the militant group said through Amaq, its media arm.
In fact, the Egyptian state TV channel reported that the Egyptian air force is pursuing airstrikes in Libya, without mentioning where the air force is dropping bombs.
However, while Egypt claims the airstrikes on Libyan locations is a vengeance for those who were killed in the terrorist attack by IS militants, it is indeed raiding locations for forces that have fought IS militants in Libya and have had victory over them in Sirte and Derna.
According to analysts, it is beyond certain that the Egyptian airstrikes are meant to pave the way for Khalifa Haftar’s forces to gain more ground in Libya after they had failed to do it themselves in Derna or in Jufra.
It is worth mentioning that Egyptian Army Chief-of-Staff Mahmoud Hegazy met with General Khalifa Haftar, in the Libyan port city of Benghazi, on May 18.
The visit is the first of its kind for an Egyptian or Arab military official since the outbreak of armed clashes in Benghazi three years ago.
But the LNA’s media office didn’t provide any details regarding the objectives of Hegazy’s visit, saying merely that he had arrived at Benghazi’s Benina Airport where he was received by LNA officials.
It is not the first time
It is noteworthy that this isn’t the first time for al-Sisi regime to support General Khalifa Haftar in Libya.
Haftar is a military figure, backed by Tobruk government based in eastern Libya that refuses to recognize the U.N.-backed government, enjoys the support of several Arab nations, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan, as well as western countries as France.
In March, Haftar’s forces recaptured Ras Lanuf and El-sidra oil terminals after an offensive they launched on BDB and PFG with the assistance of heavy airstrikes.
Last March, Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB) took control of Ras Lanuf Airport in central Libya, in addition to Ben Jawad and Nofaliya towns, in a surprise attack on LNA, forces loyal to Haftar, there.
The BDB has handed the oil installations it had captured back to the GNA.
But Haftar reigned back the oil terminals after media reports of a Russian assistance to Libya’s strongman via Egypt.
At that time, the BDB claimed that Egypt has gave a hand to Haftar to regain the oil terminals as it said in its statement that ports were bombed “by Egyptian aircraft that were sent to bomb Libyan resources in support of Haftar,”according to Libya Observer.
Although the news wasn’t confirmed, but there is a strong indication that both Russia and Egypt had played a decisive role in assisting Haftar’s forces to recapture the oil terminals.
Days before Haftar took control of oil terminals, a military emergency meeting was held in Cairo.
An Egyptian diplomatic source said that Haftar was invited to attend an emergency military meeting in Cairo, also set to include Russian and Emirati representatives, in the coming days, according to the New Arab.
According to the diplomatic source, the meeting was headed by the chief of staff of the Egyptian Army Mohammad Hegazy to develop a clear vision to enable Haftar to retake al-Sidra and Ras Lanuf.
Moreover, it was also reported that Egyptian Armed Forces have played a role in assisting Haftar forces in capturing the oil terminals from the Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG) at that time.
in September 2016, pro-Haftar forces captured the oil terminals and two other eastern oil ports in a blow to the authority of the UN-backed unity government in Tripoli.