Second Battle of Zawiya

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Second Battle of Zawiya
Part of the 2011 Libyan rebel coastal offensive
Date 13–20 August 2011
Location Zawiya, Libya
Result Decisive Anti-Gaddafi Victory
Belligerents
Libya Anti-Gaddafi forces

NATO NATO per UNSC 1973[1]

Libya Gaddafi loyalists
Commanders and leaders
Libya Ismail al-Sallabi[2]
Libya Osama Arusi[3]
Libya Mahdi al-Arabi (POW)[4]
Strength
600 fighters[5] Munawaba Brigade[4]
1,000 conscripts
Casualties and losses
41 killed,[6]
1 tank destroyed[1]
93 killed,[7] 150 wounded,[8] 15 captured[9]

9 tanks, 1 armored vehicle, 5 technical, 1 Military boat destroyed (NATO claim)

24 civilians killed[10]

The Second Battle of Zawiya was a battle in the Libyan civil war between rebel anti-Gaddafi forces and forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi for control of the Tripolitanian city of Zawiya.

Background[edit]

Zawiya rose against Gaddafi on 24 February, and formed an important strategic obstacle to loyalists. Strong loyalist efforts were made to recover the city, and after withstanding two to three weeks of assault by two mechanized brigades (the Khamis and Hosban), the city fell on 10 March. This victory allowed loyalist forces to reconquer other rebel-held cities on the western Tripolitanian coast, including Zuwara.

Rebel forces made an attempt to regain the city in mid-June, but this attempt was unsuccessful.

Holding Zawiya was a priority for the pro-Gaddafi forces, as the city lies on their coastal supply route and is a vital control city on the route from Tripoli to Tunisia. It also is home to an important oil refinery, the only one in loyalist hands prior to the battle.[11]

The Battle[edit]

The Associated Press reported that among the rebel forces advancing on the city, a leading contingent were rebels from Zawiya who had fled to the mountains. The bulk of the opposition force advanced to a bridge on the southwestern outskirts before being hit by loyalist artillery fire.[12] One group of rebels got through loyalist defensive lines in the western sector of the town, overrunning it,[13] and pushed into the city center.[14] At the same time, upon the entrance of the rebels into the streets of the city, they were cheered by some residents who came out of their homes to greet them, shouting "God is great". Some joined the rebels as fighters. A rebel spokesman asserted that the pro-Gaddafi forces' areas of control had been reduced to a couple of pockets, and that the rebels in the mountains could send supplies and reinforcements to Zawiya at any time since the road was open. After the rebels reached the main square, loyalist forces from the eastern part of Zawiya counter-attacked with a barrage of heavy weapons.

NATO conducted airstrikes in support of rebel forces. One strike hit a rebel tank in a friendly fire incident, killing four.[15]

By the evening, the Libyan government stated that a rebel force entered the city on a suicide mission but failed to take control of the town and that Zawiya was totally under government control. A rebel commander stated that opposition forces were almost a kilometer south of the city center, on the western side of the main road, while loyalist troops were on the east side.[16] A Reuters reporter stated that gunfire could be heard on the outskirts of the city.[17]

Reports were contradictory regarding the situation in the city. A Reuters reporter stated that the rebels held the city center with no signs of ongoing heavy fighting, though occasional gunfire could be heard.[18] An Al Jazeera reporter stated that there was still ongoing fighting within the city, and the city center had not yet been taken.[19][20]

Opposition forces claimed to control 70 percent of Zawiya, but loyalist snipers and sleeper cells remained in the city, and the rebels had not yet been able to clear them. The bulk of the pro-Gaddafi forces were reported to have retreated east towards Tripoli, though it was not immediately clear whether or not this was a strategic withdrawal. Rebels also feared a potential loyalist counteroffensive in the near future.[21] Rebel forces captured several abandoned weapons, including ammunition, anti aircraft guns and anti tank artillery.[22]

On 14 August, in the afternoon, an Al Jazeera reporter said that fighting was still ongoing and that the rebels had not taken the center of the city.[23] A rebel commander told the AFP that they controlled the western and southern gate of Zawiya while government forces were controlling the east and the center of the town. He stated that they managed to push 3 km inside the city but were suffering high casualties due to fire from snipers, without giving a number.[24] At 16:15, an Al Jazeera field reporter said that the rebels had taken control of a key highway running through Zawiya, the one that links Tunisia to Tripoli.[25] Ongoing fighting was occurring in the southern Surnam district where loyalist forces had been shelling rebels with artillery from inside the city.[13] A NATO spokesman said: “Nothing is certain yet and there is no confirmation about who has control of Zawiya because the situation changes every day.” [26]

On 15 August, loyalist forces pushed back the rebels from the city center in a concentrated effort to block the rebel advance.[27] 15 people were killed in an artillery strike, including a woman and a child.[8][28] By the evening, the rebels claimed to hold 80 percent of Zawiya. They arrested 15 people they said were African mercenaries and Libyan Army soldiers, though at least one alleged mercenary claimed he was an innocent Nigerian guest worker. Some fighters said they expected it would take some time to clear all the snipers from tall buildings inside the city. Some shelling continued, though rebel soldiers said fighting was getting closer to the loyalist-held oil facility.[29] A rebel fighter CNN described as "a source who has proven reliable in the past" said Gaddafi-loyal forces in Janzour, a Tripoli suburb just east of Zawiya, were pelting the city with Grad rockets, killing two, but NATO airstrikes had hit artillery positions in Janzour and the barrage had slowed.

On 16 August, a NATO spokesman said that rebels held the city center, but there were "reports of fighting also in the suburbs".[30] Al Jazeera stated that the city center in Zawiya had been captured the day before.[31] Loyalists were also still holding the refinery.[32] Doctors who had escaped a hospital in eastern Zawiya held by Gaddafi's forces said their hospital was being used for military purposes, with snipers positioned on the roof and anti-aircraft artillery set up just outside the entrance. They said doctors and nurses had been held hostage and forced to operate continuously on wounded loyalist soldiers since the start of the battle.[8]

On 17 August, rebel forces attempted to take control of the oil refinery from Gaddafi forces.[33] They claimed to have shut down all oil pipelines to the capital.[34] During the battle for the refinery complex, at least 100 Gaddafi loyalists, mostly Chadian mercenaries according to the rebels, were left defending the refinery after refusing to surrender despite being besieged. At least 200 rebel fighters were involved in the assault on the oil refinery.[35] The rebels managed to capture the refinery's entrance gate area, but were unable to take the refinery thus far due to intense sniper fire from loyalist forces within the refinery.[36] Al Jazeera had also confirmed from a rebel commander that the city center was still under loyalist control, refuting earlier NATO claims that the opposition had taken the center. The main loyalist sniper base was in the hotel at the main square.[37] The oil refinery, according to rebels, fell into their hands sometime in the night, although small pockets of resistance from snipers remained inside the complex.[38]

On 18 August, a Reuters reporter on the scene, as well as the BBC and Sky News confirmed that the refinery had been taken.[39][40] It was announced that the Zawiya refinery would begin production again within days, this time for rebel forces. The rebel soldiers also gave their account of the refinery battle, saying that after performing a five-hour rear guard action, 100-150 loyalist soldiers had retreated via the sea using boats, at least one of which was targeted by a NATO warplane and subsequently sunk.[41] NATO described the boat's actions as "repositioning" and "progressing towards another location [where] we believe they were going [sic] to make attacks on "civilians"."[42]

On 19 August, rebel forces were able to take Martyrs' Square in central Zawiya, also capturing the hospital where a number of loyalist troops were based.[43] However, pro-Gaddafi forces soon launched an intense counterattack with rockets, mortars and anti-aircraft guns.[44]

By 20 August, rebels had taken full control of the city including the eastern parts, which was confirmed by journalists who were taken to former loyalists positions. Journalists said that fighting was still ongoing to the east of the city though and loyalist shelling of Zawiya continued.[45][46] Al Jazeera stated that fighting was still ongoing at the 27km Bridge east of the city (the 27km bridge is named as such because it is exactly 27km from Tripoli).[47]

NATO strikes[edit]

According to NATO's daily Operational Media Updates, the NATO strikes, during the offensive, hit:

13 August-to-19 August NATO Strikes
Date Anti Aircraft Guns Tanks Vehicles Other
13 August[48] 0 1 Tanks 0 0
14 August[49] 1 Anti Aircraft Gun 0 0 0
15 August[50] 0 3 Tanks 1 Armored vehicle, 1 Technical 0
17 August[51] 0 0 2 Technicals 1 Military boat
18 August[52] 0 5 Tanks 2 Technicals 1 Command and Control Node
19 August[53] 0 0 0 1 Artillery Piece
Total 1 9 6 3

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Veal, Martin; Ryan, Missy (13 August 2011). "Gaddafi forces, rebels fight over Zawiyah". Khaleej Times. Reuters. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
  2. ^ Kerr, Simeon (14 August 2011). "Libya rebels claim to hold Zawiya as regime fights on". Financial Times. Retrieved 14 August 2011. 
  3. ^ "Wednesday, August 17, 2011 - 19:52 - Libya". 17 August 2011. Retrieved 16 October 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Zawya Hospital aftermath of 11/06/2011 fighting. Universalsubtitles.org. Retrieved on 2011-06-15.
  5. ^ Libyan rebels say they have advanced to outskirts of town less than 20 miles from Tripoli
  6. ^ 10 killed (13 August),[1] 5 killed (14 August),[2] 12 killed (15 August),[3] 3 killed (16 August),[4] 9 killed (17 August),[5] 2 killed (19 August),[6] total of 41 killed
  7. ^ 30 killed (13 August),[7] 4 killed (17 August),[8][9] 53 killed (18 August),[10][11][12][13] 4 killed (19 August),[14] 2 killed (20 August),[15] total of 93 reported killed
  8. ^ a b c Laub, Karin (16 August 2011). "Gadhafi's troops use hospital as base, doctors say". MSNBC. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  9. ^ "Libyan rebels push to isolate Tripoli". Al Jazeera English. 15 August 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2011. 
  10. ^ 8 killed (14 August),[16] 11 killed (15 August)[17][18] 2 killed (16 August),[19] 3 killed (20 August),[20] total of 24 civilians reported killed
  11. ^ Abdul-Ahad, Ghaith (10 August 2011). "Fuel smuggler's paradise: a day on the border between Libya and Tunisia". Guardian. 
  12. ^ McElroy, Damien (13 Aug 2011). "Libyan rebels battle for Zawiyah". The Telegraph (London). 
  13. ^ a b 'Many casualties' as Libyan rebels batter Zawiyah
  14. ^ Saturday, August 13, 2011 - 21:18 - Libya
  15. ^ "Libya clashes threaten Gaddafi grip on supply route". Reuters. 13 August 2011. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
  16. ^ "Tripoli quick to deny rebel capture of strategic port town as fighters claim victory". Al Arabiya. 13 August 2011. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
  17. ^ Lowe, Christian (13 August 2011). "Gunfire heard in Libyan town of Zawiyah-Reuters journalists". Reuters. Reuters. Retrieved 16 October 2011. 
  18. ^ "Libya rebels control Zawiyah centre: Reuters reporter". Reuters. 14 August 2011. Retrieved 14 August 2011. 
  19. ^ "Libya - Aug 14, 2011 - 17:13 | Al Jazeera Blogs". Blogs.aljazeera.net. 2011-08-14. Retrieved 2012-03-08. 
  20. ^ "Libya - Aug 14, 2011 - 16:15 | Al Jazeera Blogs". Blogs.aljazeera.net. 2011-08-14. Retrieved 2012-03-08. 
  21. ^ Sunday, August 14, 2011 - 10:07 - Libya
  22. ^ "Gadhafi gives audio address amid claims of rebel advances". CNN. 11 August 2011. 
  23. ^ Sunday, August 14, 2011 - 17:13 - Libya
  24. ^ "'Many casualties' as Libyan rebels batter Zawiyah - Africa". nation.co.ke. 2011-08-13. Retrieved 2012-03-08. 
  25. ^ Al Jazeera Libya Live Blog. August 14, 2011 - 16:15 Entry
  26. ^ Libyan rebels take control of Zawiyah
  27. ^ Gadhafi forces try to block Libyan rebel advance
  28. ^ UN envoy meets with both sides of Libyan conflict
  29. ^ Georgy, Michael (15 August 2011). "Libya's Zawiyah on edge after rebel capture". Reuters. Retrieved 15 August 2011. 
  30. ^ "NATO says anti-Gaddafi forces make "significant advances"". Xinhua. 16 August 2011. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  31. ^ Gaddafi forces 'fire first scud missile'
  32. ^ Libya conflict: Rebels fight for control of Zawiya "Libya conflict: Rebels fight for control of Zawiya". BBC. 
  33. ^ Rebels battle Libyan forces for Zawiya refinery
  34. ^ "Libyan rebels tighten grip around Tripoli - Africa". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 2012-03-09. 
  35. ^ McElroy, Damien (17 Aug 2011). "Libya: fierce battle underway for crucial Zawiyah oil refinery". The Telegraph (London). 
  36. ^ "Libya conflict: Rebels fight for Zawiya oil refinery". BBC. 17 August 2011. 
  37. ^ Gaddafi loyalists resisting rebels advance in Zawiya
  38. ^ Inside Libya: Alex Crawford In Zawiyah As Rebels Try To Push Gaddafi's Forces Out Of Town
  39. ^ "Libya rebels take control of Zawiyah oil refinery". Reuters. 18 August 2011. Retrieved 18 August 2011. 
  40. ^ Libya rebel chief fears bloodbath in Tripoli
  41. ^ McElroy, Damien (18 Aug 2011). "Libya: RAF airstrikes sink boat filled with Gaddafi troops after refinery battle". The Telegraph (London). 
  42. ^ Siddique, Haroon (19 August 2011). "Syria, Libya and Middle East unrest - Friday 19 August 2011". The Guardian (London). 
  43. ^ "Libya: Rebels Take Martyr Square in Zawiyah". Sky News. 19 August 2011. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  44. ^ Friday, August 19, 2011 - 22:30 - Libya
  45. ^ [21][dead link]
  46. ^ [22][dead link]
  47. ^ "Libya - Aug 21, 2011 - 00:17 | Al Jazeera Blogs". Blogs.aljazeera.net. 2011-08-20. Retrieved 2012-03-08. 
  48. ^ "Nato August 13". 
  49. ^ "Nato August 14". 
  50. ^ "Nato August 15". 
  51. ^ "Nato August 17". 
  52. ^ "Nato August 18". 
  53. ^ "Nato August 19". 

External links[edit]