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  • Members of Libya's internationally recognized government forces carry weapons in Ain Zara, Tripoli, Libya October 14, 2019. Picture taken October 14, 2019.

    Members of Libya's internationally recognized government forces carry weapons in Ain Zara, Tripoli, Libya October 14, 2019. Picture taken October 14, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 29 December 2019

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, however, 500 of the Syrian rebel fighters have already arrived in Libya, with another 1,000 expected to deploy to the North African country in the coming days. 

Turkey is transferring Syrian rebel fighters to Libya to protect the capital city of Tripoli from the forces loyal to Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, Bloomberg News reported on Friday. 

The report, which claims fighters from the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army are deploying to Libya, was later corroborated by several publications, including the Syrian Observation for Human Rights and the Middle East Eye. 

Citing a senior Turkish official, the Bloomberg report alleges that these rebel fighters are being tasked with defending Tripoli, while also coordinating with the forces loyal to Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj and the Government of National Accord. 

The day after the Bloomberg report was released, a couple videos showing Syrian rebel fighters in Tripoli were posted on social media. Both the Government of National Accord and Syrian National Army have since denied the validity of the videos.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, however, 500 of the Syrian rebel fighters have already arrived in Libya, with another 1,000 expected to deploy to the North African country in the coming days. 

“They are recruiting the fighters from different factions," the SOHR head Rami Abdel-Rahman told Bloomberg.

In a separate report, the SOHR said these Syrian rebel fighters are receiving US$2,000/month for fighting in Libya against the forces loyal to Field Marshal Haftar. 

Why Libya?

Turkey is arguably the most ardent supporter of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, which is recognized by the United Nations. 

Both Turkey and Qatar back the GNA, while countries like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Egypt support the Benghazi-based Libyan National Army. 

The GNA and LNA have been at war near Tripoli since April, with the Haftar-led forces steadily advancing in different phases of the battle.

However, in mid-December, Haftar announced the final phase of the battle, vowing to capture the city-center of Tripoli.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to prevent Tripoli from falling to the Haftar-led forces after signing a joint military agreement with the GNA. 

The Turkish Parliament will now vote on January 7th about whether or not to deploy their military forces to Libya. 

Eastern Mediterranean Oil

Another reason for Libya's importance is its offshore oil exploration in the eastern Mediterranean, which Turkey currently has rights to after reaching an agreement with the GNA in early December. 

This agreement between the GNA and Turkey has caused a major uproar in the Mediterranean region, as countries like Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, and Israel have objected to Ankara's attempts to control the shipping lanes in this part of the sea. 

Greece and Egypt have already bolstered their presence in the Mediterranean, but this has not deterred Turkey, as they have increased their naval deployment around Northern Cyprus. 

While a military confrontation is highly unlikely, these countries are using the Libyan conflict to fight a proxy war for control of this imperative part of the Mediterranean region. 

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