It has been three weeks since Major General Khalifa Hifter launched his offensive against Islamist groups in Benghazi, which has come to be known as “Operation Dignity”. While the intensity of the initial onslaught on 16 May 2014 which killed some seventy people, has not been repeated, ongoing air strikes and clashes have seen the death toll mount to well above 100. Furthermore, there have been indications that “Operation Dignity” is being extended to other Libyan cities in particular the eastern Islamist stronghold of Derna, and the western town of Sabratha. Violence is anticipated to continue and intensify, as Islamist-leaning militias from outside of Benghazi have begun gearing up to fight Hifter’s forces. In a potentially positive development, however, the ruling by the Supreme Court on 09 June 2014, which stated that the appointment of Ahmed Miitig had been unconstitutional, was accepted by Miitig, who stepped down. It is hoped that the finality of the ruling which cannot be appealed will bring an end to the stalemate ahead of general elections which could be held on 25 June 2014. Under the court’s ruling, Abdullah al Thinni will remain as Caretaker Prime Minister.
The Supreme Court ruled during the morning of 09 June 2014 that the appointment of Ahmed Miitig as Prime Minister was unconstitutional, and thus that Caretaker Prime Minister Abdullah al Thinni should remain in the position. A replacement is unlikely to be selected until around September 2014, after the House of Representatives set to be elected on 25 June 2014 meets and appoints a new government. While Miitig appeared in a press conference shortly after the announcement to state that he would immediately step down in response to the ruling.
At present no travel to the eastern city of Benghazi should be considered until further notice. Clashes and attacks related to Major General Khali launched in mid-May 2014, ostensibly in an attempt to drive terrorist groups from Libya, continue on a daily basis in Benghazi, primarily targeting Ansar al Sharia and its affiliates.
The worst -related violence in Benghazi is generally reported from: Tabalino, Sidi Faraj, Guwarsha, Garyounes and Hawari. Other locations which have served as flashpoints for fighting this week include Ganfouda, Sidi Younes, Laithi, Souq Hadiqa and the residential areas surrounding Benina International Airport. There is currently no official date for when Benina International Airport to be reopened, with officials stating that it will be reopened only when security in the area can be ensured. Local sources have reported early on 10 June 2014, that Libyan National Army forces carried out heavy shelling over suspected Ansar al Sharia ammunition storage buildings in the Ganfouda district on the southern outskirts of Benghazi. Skirmishes were also reported late on 09 June 2014 and early on 10 June 2014, from the residential areas surrounding Benina International Airport, including Talhiya and Nuwaqiya.
Protests were held throughout 06 and 07 June 2014, across Benghazi, mostly in support of the operation to rid the city of terrorist groups. Late on 07 June 2014, the road to Benina International Airport was blocked by protesters, similar protests are expected to continue on a weekly basis. While the protests in Benghazi appeared to pass off peacefully, in contrast to protests in Tripoli which resulted in clashes, personnel should be aware of the significant danger involved in all gatherings in Benghazi. Illustrating the danger, a well-known coordinator of anti-Islamist protests in Benghazi, Mohammed Magbry, was kidnapped and assassinated by elements believed to be associated with the 17 February Brigade on 07 June 2014.