Some 40 fighters are reported to have been killed in fierce clashes today in Benghazi as Operation Dignity forces launched a fresh, massive assault against Ansar Al-Sharia and its allies.
The operation, seemingly designed to smash the Islamist forces in the city once and for all, started at 7 am this morning, according to LNA air force commander Saqr Adam Geroushi. He told the Libya Herald that fighting was taking place in Buhdeima, Buatni, Leithi, Gamfouda, Gawarsha, Halees and Sabri. As well as tanks and missiles being used, helicopters had been deployed to bomb Ansar positions, particularly in Boatni and Hawari.
Operation Dignity leader Khalifa Haftar had ordered all front line commanders to attack, he said, after 210 fully armed fighters had arrived at Gamfouda by boat from Misrata to reinforce Ansar.
Geroushi said that there had been many casualties. Thirty Ansar fighters had died, he claimed. There were lots of bodies particularly in Leithi, he stated, adding that, when the army surrounded them, Ansar forces “ran away” leaving the dead behind them. A number were foreign, he alleged.
He did not give figures as to operation Dignity and LNA casualties. However, another source has put them at 7 dead and 41 wounded.
A source at Jalaa Hospital said there were many wounded being brought in from Leithi area, but did not give figures.
According to Colonel Mohamed Hejazi, the spokesman for Operation Dignity, Ansar lost 27 fighterS in Laithi and four in Suq Al-Hout. He put army losses at three dead – one from navy forces in Suq Al- Hout and two from 155 Battalion from Marj.
Today’s fighting was the start of a “decisive” battle to finally destroy Ansar in the city, he told this newspaper. He said he did not know when it would finish. Fresh arms and munitions had been brought in for the fight, he added.
He repeated a call to the remaining civilians in Hawari and other affected zones to leave. “We have made the call more than once. Get out of these areas. Your lives are at risk.”
By Adam Ali and Maha Sulaiman.