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On the night of July 6, "unknown" aircraft launched powerful strikes on the infrastructure of the al-Watiya air force base 140 km south of the Libyan capital city of Tripoli. As a result, the runway was totally knocked out of service, with the control and navigation point, aviation fuel storage facilities and several engineering rooms destroyed. Major damage was caused to radar stations and air defense systems deployed in firing positions.
These steps were taken to disrupt air force stationing of Turkey, whose military and political leadership intended to use the al-Watiya base to support the offensive by troops loyal to Fayez al-Sarraj's Government of National Accord (GNA) in the direction of the cities of Sirte and Benghazi.
In June 2020, the GNA attempted to launch an offensive eastwards, but after leaving the city of Misrata, a major column of pro-Turkish formations was almost utterly destroyed by aircraft of Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA). Losses numbered in several hundred militants and about 200 pieces of automotive and other military equipment.
On July 3-4, 2020, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar held talks in Tripoli with GNA leader Fayez al-Sarraj on prospects of using the naval base in Misrata and the al-Watiya air base, and made an inspection tour of the mentioned facilities. President Recep Erdogan was expected to visit Tripoli in the coming days to sign an agreement to establish Turkish bases in Libya.
In April-May this year, the Turkish leadership negotiated with the Tunisian government on the temporary and limited use of its military facilities for the good of the Turkish air force and navy, but suffered a rebuff.
The Turkish command is distinctly aware that an eastward offensive without active support of combat aircraft will be challenging or even doomed to failure. However, Turkey does not have long-range aviation and cannot use existing aircraft from its territory. This has become the most complex and vulnerable factor in Ankara's plan. At the same time, the Turks are holding out hope for powerful naval fire support for the offensive, and plan to create a sizable group of warships off the coast of Libya.
With regard to Erdogan's persistent intentions towards Libya, the military and political leadership of Egypt asked Russia to speed up the earlier agreed delivery of Bastion coastal missile systems to Cairo. This step must be considered as Egypt's readiness to comply with Turkey's warnings and boost Marshal Haftar's army.
It is entirely possible that the US and Turkey will blame Russia for the wipeout of the al-Watiya air base. This will be prompted by the deployment of 14 Russian-produced combat aircraft at the al-Jufra air base (160 km south of Sirte), comprising two SU-24 front-line bombers and 12 MiG-29 and SU-35 fighters. According to foreign news agencies, several hundred private military contractors protect and defend the base, which also causes painful interest with the Russian opponents.