Battle of Wazzin

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Battle of Wazzin
Part of 2011 Nafusa Mountains Campaign
Date 21 April 2011 (First Phase)
24 April - 28 April 2011 (Second Phase)
29 April - May 2011 (Third Phase)
11 July - 29 July 2011 (Fourth phase)
Location Wazzin, Libya and Dehiba, Tunisia
Result
  • Rebel forces capture Wazzin on 21 April
  • Loyalist forces retake the border crossing on 28 April
  • Tenuous rebel hold on Wazzin by 4 May,[2] fighting ongoing after Libyan Army clashes with Tunisian Army
  • Loyalist forces occasionally shelled the crossing for months afterward
Belligerents
Libya Anti-Gaddafi forces Libya Armed forces of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya  Tunisia[1]
Commanders and leaders
Mustafa Abdul Jalil Muammar Gaddafi Fouad Mebazaa
Casualties and losses
Unknown (First phase)
3 killed (Second phase)*[3]
11 killed (Third phase)[4]
15 killed, 14 captured (First phase)
8 killed (Second phase)*[5]
23 killed (Third phase)[6]
1 civilian wounded

Several houses destroyed or damaged
Several soldiers killed or injured in border incursions[7]

*Unconfirmed report that up to 20 people in total had been killed on 28 April[8]

The Battle of Wazzin was a conflict during the Libyan civil war for the Libyan-Tunisian border town of Wazzin.[9][10] Rebel forces made an initial victory, but it was short lived as Gaddafi's men re-occupied the town, only to lose it again to the rebels.

The battle spilled over into Tunisian territory on several occasions, prompting clashes with the Tunisian military (which had not explicitly taken a side in the battle).

The fighting turned Wazzin into something of a ghost town, valuable only as a strategic location.[11]

Background[edit]

In the early days of the war, towns in the Nafusa Mountains quickly joined the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, but soon came under heavy attack by loyalist forces. Wazzin was initially taken by rebels, but soon fell under the control of loyalists, cutting off this supply line to the rebel-held mountain towns. To relieve the military and humanitarian pressure on their besieged towns, the rebels fought to retake the crossing.[12]

Battle[edit]

On 21 April, rebel forces assaulted Wazzin but were met with fierce resistance by loyalist soldiers.[13] Their advances were initially slow but eventually they overwhelmed Gaddafi's men, taking the town of Wazzin before swiftly capturing the crossing itself, causing Gaddafi's men to be trapped in between the Tunisian border and the advancing rebels. In the end, 105 loyalist soldiers retreated into Tunisia where they surrendered to Tunisian officials.[14][15]

All of Gaddafi's men returned to Libya without charge, however 13[16] men captured by the rebels remained in their hands.[17][18]

With the border post in rebel hands, they began bringing supplies from Tunisia into the besieged towns of the Nafusa Mountains.

On 24 April, loyalist forces began shelling the border post in an attempt to recapture it, though no casualties were reported.[19]

On 28 April, loyalist forces re-captured the Wazzin border crossing with Tunisia after a swift advance in which they pushed the rebels back over the border into Tunisia where the fighting continued on the edge of the Tunisian border town of Dehiba.[20] State TV stated that several rebels were killed and others captured in the attack on the border post.[21] Later during the day, the rebels attempted a counter-attack.[22] Initially, they claimed having re-taken the post. However, Reuters denied it later by confirming that the loyalists were still in full control.[23] During the confusion, when it was thought that the rebels had won, scores of civilian vehicles attempted to re-enter Libya from Tunisia. But, they quickly turned back when they found Gaddafi's forces were still at the border crossing.[24] Heavy fighting continued into the night, with rebels apparently massing for a renewed attack against the better-armed loyalists[25] and during the evening the rebels once again claimed to had re-taken the crossing after they received reinforcements from Zintan. Still, this claim was also later found to be untrue.[26]

The next morning, loyalist troops advanced from the crossing post of Wazzin in pursuit of the rebels, who had retreated onto Tunisian soil after a night of fighting, over the border and engaged them in the center of the town of Dehiba. Soon after that clashes between Gaddafi and Tunisian troops were reported. The Tunisian military soon seized loyalist troops and led them back over the border. At the same time, the rebels again claimed to have re-taken the border post.[27] However, Al Jazeera confirmed that the Gaddafi green flag of Libya was still flying over the border post thus proving that government troops were still in control.[28] Control of the post shifted back and forth in the following days.[29]

Libyan Army enters Tunisia[edit]

Following the first border violation, Tunisian authorities were relatively quiet, believing the event to be a one off. However, after loyalists shelled Tunisian soil (it is unclear if this was accidental or not), a warning was issued, but once fully fledged fighting began across the border, Tunisian officials stated that they were outraged and wanted both rebels and loyalists to put in place measures to stop similar incidents in the future.[30]

The Tunisian government took steps to prevent further civilian casualties on their side by evacuating all areas they felt were at risk from the Libyans.[31]

By 29 April, the situation on the border with Tunisia began deteriorating rapidly. Rebel forces were frequently using the border region as a way to evade capture by Gaddafi forces, as well as a principal resupply route.[32] In response, the loyalist forces launched an artillery barrage on the Tunisian town of Dehiba, and advanced across the border. Elements of the Tunisian Army and border police, who had only recently returned to their posts following the border violation on 28 April responded with deadly force to the incursion. By mid-afternoon, press reports came in stating that the Tunisian military was engaged in combat with the Libyan Army in central Dehiba. Later in the day fights between pro-Gaddafi forces and Tunisian army had ceased. The Tunisian military had captured and disarmed pro-Gaddafi soldiers and then sent them back to Libya.[33]

As of 1 May, Gaddafi's forces were still shelling Tunisian territory, although no further casualties were reported.[34]

On 7 May, renewed fighting in Wazzin lead to more shells falling in Tunisian territory, sparking mass evacuations in the border town of Dehiba. Roughly 100 shells fell in Tunisian territory causing one house to be damaged yet nobody was killed. The Tunisian authorities stated that the situation was 'very dangerous' and that they would do everything they had to in order to protect their country.

Nine days later, on 16 May, Tunisian troops stopped 200 loyalist soldiers in 4x4s crossing into Tunisia to try to outflank the rebels. The soldiers cooperated and there was no confrontation.[35]

The next day, after Grad rockets continued to fall in Tunisian territory, the Tunisian government issued a warning to Libya that they would refer them to the UN security council.[36]

On 23 May, Gaddafi's men once again shelled Wazzin; there were no reports of casualties or of rockets landing in Tunisia.[37]

There was a lull in fighting around the border, broken by Gaddafi's men firing Grad rockets into Tunisia on 14 June. Nobody was injured in the attack, but it was followed up by Tunisian forces flying a spy plane over loyalist positions.[38]

There are unconfirmed reports that Gaddafi's men attacked humanitarian workers on the Tunisian side of the border. [39]

On 11 July, there were sketchy reports that Gaddafi's men were still attacking Wazzin[40][41] and of a large loyalist army amassing nearby, possibly with the intention of retaking the crossing.[42]

On 20 July, more rockets were fired into Tunisia by Gaddafi's men; there were rumors that some NATO airstrikes may have landed across the border. Tunisian forces sent tanks to the border, hoping to intimidate Libyan forces into stopping the attacks.[43][44]

On 29 July, rebels attacked loyalists in nearby Ayn Ghazaya. Heavy fighting ensued, and rebels shut down the crossing until it was more secure.[45]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Tunisia troops clash with Gaddafi forces -resident". Reuters. 29 April 2011. 
  2. ^ http://www.npr.org/2011/05/04/135977500/libyan-rebels-hang-on-to-strategic-border-crossing,
  3. ^ Libyan forces overrun rebels on Tunisian border
  4. ^ 1 killed (29 April),[1] 3 killed (17 May),[2] 7 killed (18 May),[3] total of 11 reported killed
  5. ^ http://www.presstv.ir/detail/177234.html
  6. ^ http://blogs.aljazeera.net/live/africa/libya-live-blog-april-29
  7. ^ Noueihed, Lin (2 May 2011). "Libya says Gaddafi survives air strikes, but son killed". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  8. ^ Gadhafi forces shell frontline city in west Libya
  9. ^ "Need to Know News: Two photographers killed in Libya; gas prices at all time high". CNN. 21 April 2011. 
  10. ^ http://egyptday1.blogspot.com/2011/04/protesters-in-libya-said-they-have.html
  11. ^ Daragahi, Borzou (25 June 2011). "Libyan's western front joins battle". Los Angeles Times. 
  12. ^ http://english.cri.cn/6966/2011/04/22/2021s633549.htm
  13. ^ http://blogs.aljazeera.net/live/africa/libya-live-blog-april-21-0
  14. ^ http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/db24ce40-6ce3-11e0-83fe-00144feab49a.html#axzz1KGq1WfYA
  15. ^ http://blogs.aljazeera.net/live/africa/libya-live-blog-april-22
  16. ^ The Sydney Morning Herald http://www.smh.com.au/world/rebels-make-advances-seize-border-crossing-20110422-1drbr.html |url= missing title (help). 
  17. ^ "Libya says NATO strikes kill 15 civilians; alliance denies report". CNN. 25 June 2011. 
  18. ^ http://www.agi.it/english-version/world/elenco-notizie/201104211843-cro-ren1081-libyan_insurgents_gain_control_of_border_pass
  19. ^ http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/afp/misrata-fighting-rages-on-despite-tripoli-vow/437209
  20. ^ Libya Live Blog - April 28
  21. ^ Libyan forces overrun rebels on Tunisian border
  22. ^ New clashes between Libyans at Tunisia border post
  23. ^ Gaddafi forces still at Tunisia border -witness
  24. ^ WRAPUP 1-Libya angers Tunisia as war briefly crosses border
  25. ^ AJE Libya Live Blog –April 28, 11:14PM
  26. ^ Rebels Register Small Gains in Western Libya
  27. ^ Pro-Gaddafi forces clash with Tunisian military
  28. ^ Libya Live Blog - April 29 12:20PM
  29. ^ http://www.npr.org/2011/05/04/135977500/libyan-rebels-hang-on-to-strategic-border-crossing
  30. ^ http://archive.libyafeb17.com/2011/04/april-29th-updates/
  31. ^ http://english.ruvr.ru/2011/05/01/49716843.html
  32. ^ Boudreaux, Richard (29 April 2011). "Gadhafi's Troops Chase Rebels Into Tunisia". The Wall Street Journal. 
  33. ^ "Pro-Gaddafi forces clash with Tunisian military". Reuters. 29 April 2011. 
  34. ^ "Libyan artillery rounds land in Tunisian town". Reuters. 1 May 2011. 
  35. ^ http://blogs.aljazeera.net/live/africa/libya-live-blog-0
  36. ^ http://archive.libyafeb17.com/2011/05/may-17th-updates/
  37. ^ http://archive.libyafeb17.com/2011/05/may-23rd-updates/
  38. ^ http://archive.libyafeb17.com/2011/06/june-14th-updates/
  39. ^ http://archive.libyafeb17.com/2011/06/june-22nd-updates/
  40. ^ http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2011/07/09/UPI-NewsTrack-TopNews/UPI-78641310248800/?spt=hs&or=tn
  41. ^ http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2011/Jul-11/Gadhafi-forces-shell-rebels-south-of-Tripoli.ashx#axzz1SY1kFO7o
  42. ^ http://www.channel4.com/news/gaddafi-to-go-claim-wishful-thinking
  43. ^ http://www.worldtribune.com/worldtribune/WTARC/2011/af_tunisia0924_07_25.asp
  44. ^ "(unknown)". The San Francisco Chronicle. 22 July 2011. [dead link]
  45. ^ http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90777/90855/7455470.html

Coordinates: 31°56′32″N 10°39′45″E / 31.94222°N 10.66250°E / 31.94222; 10.66250