Libya: mysterious air-strikes on Derna

Unidentified warplanes or drones bombed Libya's eastern city of Derna Feb. 7, reportedly hitting Shura Council locations. Shura Council sources confirmed to local media that two of their fighters were killed. A woman and her child were also among dead—by some accounts, killed in a strike on a hospital in the city. A wing of the city's al-Wehda hospital was said to be "completely destroyed." The Shura Council is aligned with the Islamist-led Libya Dawn coalition that controls most of Libya's west, and has been battling ISIS forces for control of the city.  (Libya Observer, Reuters, AFP, Feb. 7) Derna is an Islamist-controlled enclave in eastern Libya, which is mostly controlled by the more secularist "official" government. The "official" government last month rejected a UN-brokered deal to unite the two rival regimes—both of which are now threatend by the growing ISIS presence in the country.

It is unclear who carried out the Derna strikes. In June 2015, US air-strikes apparently likewise targeted the Shura Council, that time in Ajdabiya—but then the Shura Council was said to be allied with local ISIS forces in shifting alliance between Islamist factions. The US also carried out an air-strike in Derna in November 2015, reportedly killing a local ISIS leader. In Feb. 2015, Egypt carried out air-strikes on presumed Islamist forces in Derna. Unclaimed air-strikes in Libyan territory in the previous months are also believed to have been carried out by Egypt. August 2014 also saw mysterious air-strikes on Islamist targets in Tripoli, later said to have been carried out by UAE warplanes flying from Egyptian bases. Libya's "official" regime has called for foreign air-strikes on ISIS.

The day before the new Derna strike, UK Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn demanded that Prime Minister David Cameron reveal the extent of Britain's military preparations for war in Libya, warning that British drones may already be operating over the country. (The Independent, Feb. 6)

Forces loyal to the rival regimes continue to fight for control of the city of Benghazi, with some 15 rockets striking the city's Hay Salam district the same day as the Derna strikes. They were presumably fired by Libya National Army forces on areas controlled by Islamist militants. (Libya Herald, Feb. 7)

In a testament to the growing chaos in Libya, Tunisia's government has completed the first stage of a "separation barrier" along its eastern border. The second part of the barrier is currently under construction, projected to follow the entire 500-kilometer long border. The barrier now consists of a water-filled trench and sand embankment, following the border at a distance of two kilometers. The Tunisian military has claimed the right to shoot anyone in the two-kilometer buffer zone. The barrier is eventually to be fitted with electronic monitoring equipment supplied by Germany and the US. (LH, Al Jazeera, Feb. 7)

In a further sign of the deteriorating security situation, Algeria announced it is cutting all air links with Libya until further notice. (LH, Jan. 27) Libya's official government has lost its voting rights at UN General Assembly over non-payment of United Nations dues. (LH, Feb. 4)