Forces loyal to the UN-backed “unity government” in Libya have advanced into central Sirte today, engaged in heavy fighting with ISIS forces in the residential district of al-Dollar. At least five people were killed and 17 wounded in the fighting.
Sirte has been contested for months now, with the unity government and other rival factions all trying to take the city away from ISIS, with many analysts saying the faction which ends up with Sirte could have a huge advantage in winning Western support.
The unity government’s push into Sirte comes following yesterday’s heavy US airstrikes in the area. The US has said the strikes were done at the request of the unity government, with an eye toward ensuring that they have control over the city itself.
That may be a tall order, as the unity government has very limited forces on the ground, centering mostly around the nation’s old Petroleum Facilities Guard, which as their name suggests was designed primarily as a defense force, not one meant to capture major cities.
This has been an issue with all the factions in Libya that style themselves the national “government,” as none really has the ability to project power in such a way as to gain control of more than a small fraction of the nation, leaving open the question of whether any of them can ultimately reunite Libya.