The east-based Libyan National Army (LNA) has introduced a no-fly zone around the city of Sirte on Sunday, LNA spokesperson Maj. Gen. Ahmed Mismari said, also welcoming Cairo’s announcement of being prepared to send in its forces.
“The area from the As Sultan settlement east of Sirte until the al-Heesa village in the west is being declared a no-fly zone where the flights of any aviation, except for LNA aircraft, are prohibited,” Mismari said in a statement obtained by Sputnik.
According to the LNA spokesperson, the no-fly zone stretches across 200 kilometers (124 miles).
On Saturday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi said that Egypt had an internationally legitimate right to intervene in Libya and told the army to be prepared to fight abroad, should the need arise. The Egyptian president also said that the Libyan east-based House of Representatives was the only legitimately elected one among Libya’s power entities and offered to help Libyan tribes resist foreign intervention by training and equipping them.
Sisi stressed that if the city of Sirte, which he called the “red line” for Egypt, fell into the hands of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), Egypt would be legitimized in sending in its military on defense grounds.Mismari hailed the Saturday announcement of the Egyptian president, saying during a Sunday press conference that Cairo was acting in the interests of national security and that the internal conflict in Libya had spread beyond the country’s borders and the region. The LNA spokesperson accused groups supported by the GNA of escalating the internal crisis in Libya and claimed that Turkey was meddling in the situation in order to get hold of Libyan resources.
On 6 June, Sisi held a meeting with field marshal Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA). After the talks, the Egyptian president announced the so-called Cairo Initiative which outlined conditions of a political settlement in Libya and stipulated that warring parties cease fire on 8 June. The initiative was supported by Russia, the United States and several Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, while Turkey and the rival Libyan administration, the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) headed by Fayez Sarraj, rejected it.
For more than a year, Haftar’s army has been trying to capture the capital of Libya. Both sides of the conflict have accused each other of receiving aid in arms and manpower from abroad. In recent weeks, the GNA forces have made major military gains against LNA and have announced their intention to build on the success by establishing control of the city of Sirte, currently under the control of Haftar’s forces.