On 22 July, large demonstrations took place in Tripoli, Misrata, Zawiyya, Zuwara and others denouncing the discovery of French fighters acting in coordination with Khalifa Haftar as evidence of a French invasion, and breaching of the internationally recognized political agreement. Anti-Government of National Accord (GNA) forces are using the event to re-consolidate political forces that had fragmented after the GNA replaced the former Islamist-aligned General National Congress (GNC) in Tripoli on 30 March 2016. Demonstrators in Tripoli marched against the GNA in Abu Setta naval base, stormed the foreign ministry and threatened the council with 48 hours to leave Libya. Although these threats remain slightly exaggerated at this time, the consolidation of hardline political forces, coupled with possible back-tracking of members in the Presidential and State Council’s, is likely to further expand and entrench the anti-GNA camp.
Tensions within the Misratan ranks are rising between ‘moderate’ forces aligned to the GNA, and more hardline fighters supporting Islamist militias, such as the newly formed Benghazi Defense Brigade (BDB). The Misratans’ discontent with the GNA remains high, and backlash from fighters may be expected in Tripoli as disputes over the division of the spoils in Sirte is expected.
In eastern Libya, the momentum of the Libyan National Army (LNA) continues to decrease, while non-state actors and Islamist hardliners regain prominence in western Libya, especially as Misratan forces make additional gains against ISIS in Sirte. The credibility of the LNA took another severe hit after 14 bodies were discovered on 21 July in a rubbish dump in Benghazi, an area supposedly ‘liberated’ from ISIS in March 2016. The bodies appeared to have been tortured, tied and summarily executed. They were found in body bags, possibly evidence of extra judicial killings by militias or units affiliated with the LNA, causing widespread fear and angst in the city. This blow to the LNA’s credibility is further augmented by the exposure of the direct involvement of French soldiers in the fighting against the BDB, a group which has already capitalized on strong anti-French and anti-LNA sentiment even amongst supporters of the LNA in Benghazi and Derna.