Russian-made cargo planes delivered military equipment to Libyan forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar, while Syria sent two planeloads of soldiers to the country, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Sunday.
Russian lyushin transport planes conducted five flights to carry weapons to the Sirte and Jufra provinces on Saturday, Anadolu said, citing Gen. Abdulhadi Dirah, a spokesman for the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli responsible for the Sirte-Jufra Joint Operations Unit.
The coastal city of Sirte and the Al-Jufra airbase are key strategic locations controlled by Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) and sought after by the GNA and its backer, Turkey, in an ongoing conflict in the country. Both are key locations dividing east and west Libya and are near the country’s rich mineral reserves.
Two other flights carrying Syrian government soldiers landed in Benghazi, Dirah told Anadolu. Benghazi is a stronghold of Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA). Russia is Syrian President Bashar Assad’s strongest ally in his county’s civil war against opposition groups, many of which are allied with Turkey.
The U.N.-recognised GNA has reversed gains made by the Russia and United Arab Emirates-backed LNA in recent months with the help of Turkish military advice and mercenaries sent by Turkey from Syria.
The GNA has said it will stop the military advance once it captures Al-Jufra airbase and Sirte, however neighbouring Egypt has said it will intervene militarily against the GNA should the operations proceed.