Turkey appears to have lost some of its army men and MIM-23 Hawk air defense systems as Libyan National Army (LNA) warplanes struck al-Watiya airbase on Sunday night.
The airbase was recaptured from renegade commander Khalifa Haftar’s grip by Libya’s Turkey-backed and internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in May.
Official confirmation from the Turkish Ministry of Defense is awaited.
“Libya will respond to recent overnight airstrikes on strategically important Al-Watiya airbase. The airstrikes by foreign fighter jets supporting war criminal Khalifa Haftar were a failed attempt to distract from our recent victories,” Salah Al-Namroush, Libya’s deputy defense minister, was quoted as saying by media reports.
The LNA led by Haftar enjoys support from France, Egypt, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Russia and Saudi Arabia. Egyptian F-16 fighter jets and UAE Air Force Airbus A330-243MRTT tankers were allegedly spotted flying over Libyan skies on June 22.
Around mid-June, Turkish media reported that Ankara was in talks with GNA to let its military use two military bases: al-Watiya air base and Misrata naval base. A more permanent air and naval presence in Libya will reinforce Turkey’s growing influence in the region, including in Syria, and boost its claims to offshore oil and gas resources.