Over the last two weeks, the Benghazi Defense Brigade (BDB) advanced to within 60 kilometers east of Benghazi, before reportedly retreating back to its base in Jufra, Libya on 22-23 July. The militia, which has enjoyed rising support in western Libya after it managed to take down an LNA helicopter with three French soldiers onboard on 17 July, is likely to conduct a new incursion into the oil crescent to retake oil wells from LNA-aligned forces and to mount another assault on Benghazi. While support in western Libya to the BDB has increased after these latest political and military developments, the 23 July endorsement announcement by Aqaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) leader Mukhtar Bel Moktar is likely to put the Islamist factions in an untenable position of being formerly recognized as terrorist AQIM affiliates. Bel Moktar expressed AQIM’s support of the BDB’s campaign and the Tripoli-based Grand Mufti Sadeq Al Ghariyani’s call for warfare against the French.
On 24 July, clashes erupted on the Libyan side of the Libyan-Tunisian border between non-jihadi militias from Zuwara and Zawiyya, forcing the border to close shortly. The border is now open, but volatility is likely to rise due to the pressure placed on the Libyan economy and the militias’ finances as result of the rapidly declining Libyan currency and the ensuing incentives to smuggle goods out of Libya. Migrant smuggling is continuing unabated from these shores, with bodies of drowned migrants being deposited on Sabratha beach near Mellitah throughout the week. A new trend last week indicated a swift increase in the exodus of Libyans from these ports, rather than sub-Saharan Africans, due to the collapsing situation in Libya. This trend is likely to endure as the economy continues to falter.