In Sirte, fighting halted last week but resumed fiercely on 27 August. The break in the fighting was reportedly to allow wives and children of ISIS fighters to exit the conflict zone towards the southwest, though there is no evidence confirming this actually took place. It is likely that key ISIS commanders will have taken advantage of this lull in fighting to escape to the south, meaning the destruction of ISIS in Sirte will not mean the eradication of ISIS in Libya… On 28 August, Bunyan Marsus (BM) fighters aligned with the Government of National Accord (GNA) closed in on ISIS-held districts 1 and 3 of Sirte. At least 35 were killed and more than 180 injured as a result of fierce fighting and reportedly 14 attempted SVBIED attacks by ISIS.

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The Bunyan Marsus coalition continued its steady advance deep into the center of Sirte, taking major residential areas throughout the week with the help of US airstrikes. ISIS militants still fighting in these areas continue to show fierce resistance using snipers, mortars and SVBIEDs, but the gains made by Bunyan Marsus indicate that the entirety of Sirte may be liberated within the next two weeks.

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The Misratan-led Bunyan Marsus coalition made great gains against ISIS in Sirte, pushing ISIS out of its stronghold in Ouagadougu Centre, Ibn Sina Hospital and Sirte University on 11 August. All three buildings were bastions of ISIS rule in the city, and the group’s downfall represents a significant degradation of its presence and control. Paradoxically, the GNA’s impending victory over ISIS is also a moment of rapid decline in its legitimacy. This observation was recognized by UN special envoy Martin Kobler in a recent interview, saying that popular support for the GNA is crumbling due to worsening economic and security conditions throughout Libya.

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Two major pronouncements were made this week. 1. Misratan forces continued their protracted advance into Sirte as battles supposedly moved into what Banyan Marsus is calling their ‘final stages’. 2. Simultaneously as the fight against ISIS has become less popular for some militia men in Tripoli, non-ISIS jihadis such as the grand mufti are expressing support for ISIS…. US support is also fuelling divides with Misratan ranks between pro-GNA formations and more anti-GNA hard-line militias. These divides may escalate the closer the BM gets to victory in Sirte. Anti GNA sentiment remains high in Misratan ranks, with many fighters rumoured to be actively ready to move against the GNA in Tripoli after victory in Sirte.

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After fierce fighting on 28-30 July, the Misratan-led Bunyan Marsus coalition took full control of the Hay Dollar area in Sirte. The operation has thus far cost more than 300 Bunyan Marsus lives, with another 1,500 injured… On 1 August, Government of National Accord Prime Minister Fayez Serraj made a televised speech announcing the beginning of US airstrikes against ISIS in Sirte, following a formal request by the Presidential Council.

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