As the BM forces have slowly claimed more territory from ISIS, they have encountered abandoned ISIS defences. These include improvised tunnels, bunkers built under the foundations of buildings and fridges filled with earth which act as barricades. A makeshift field hospital was discovered in one abandoned building last week. BM forces have increasingly been using tanks and heavily armoured vehicles to clear paths through built up areas.
On 23 October, ISIS’ media arm Amaq reported that it had destroyed a vehicle transporting BM fighters on the coastal road west of Sirte using an IED detonation. A Palestinian man was killed and his family injured by an IED or land mine on the same road. Several roadside bombs were also found on the outskirts of Sirte last week, including near a field hospital and a helicopter landing area. These incidents indicate that some ISIS forces have seeped out of the city and are able to launch pinprick attacks.
In Benghazi, clashes are ongoing between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and jihadi groups in the Ganfuda and Sabri/Souq al-Hout areas, where fighters from the Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council (BRSC) and ISIS are resisting LNA advances. On October 23, ISIS targeted LNA observation posts and positions in Gawarsha, an area in south west Benghazi, with SPG-9s and heavy machine guns.
On 21 October, Kobler visited Serraj to reaffirm international support to the GNA and the LPA. During a joint press conference with Swehli, Kobler demanded that the supporters of Ghwell’s ‘coup’ attempt evacuate the HCS’s premises in Tripoli immediately. Swehli said that the ‘coup’ plotters were merely a minority who represented only their own interests and lacked public support. He said that the stability and security of the capital would not be sacrificed by engaging in an open confrontation with the plotters. Kobler praised Serraj and Swehli, urging an urgent and peaceful solution to the crisis.
According to the US Africa Command, AFRICOM, the US has so far launched nearly 350 sorties against ISIS targets in Sirte since Operation Odyssey began on 1 August. 150 of these strikes were carried out in the period 1 – 18 October, marking a distinct intensification. Last week, the Americans replaced the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp with the amphibious transport dock, USS San Antonio. They are also withdrawing their fixed-wing AV-8B Harrier jump jets in favour of a helicopter force of Bell SuperCobras and Bell Venoms (Super Hueys).
On 20 October, Zintan’s Abubakr al-Sadiq Brigade issued a statement saying “we call all Libyans to stay united and prepare to fight the new Italian invasion of our land” after the brigade claimed that Italian forces were stationed at the Jufra airbase, located 600km south-east of Tripoli between Hun and Waddan. Italian officials have refuted these claims. A small Italian force of around 200 soldiers is currently stationed in Misrata, guarding the Italian field hospital there which is used to treat the Misratan wounded from the Sirte campaign.