(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
Mohamed Darat, a commander of the GNA forces, said on Wednesday that the US airstrike campaign against ISIS has allowed unity government forces to make greater advances against the extremist group.
As a result of the airstrikes fired on Monday, Darat’s brigades was able to take over command of a neighbourhood known as Dollar.
GNA forces were struggling to make advances in Sirte after ISIS began to use suicide bombers, sniper fire, mines and mortars on GNA fighters.
“In the last two houses in this area we faced strong resistance so we asked (U.S.) to hit that site… We moved back and they struck,” explains Darat.
The first airstrikes targeted tanks, military and construction vehicles, as well as a rocket launcher belonging to ISIS. US forces said they hit ISIS with five airstrikes on Monday and two airstrikes on Tuesday.
The airstrikes were fired by armed drones coming from Jordan and Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers launched from USS Wasp, a military vessel based in the Mediterranean Sea, said a US official.
US officials also confirmed that the US is using the Sigonella air base in Sicily to launch and operate intelligence-gathering drones sent to Libya.
GNA brigade leaders report that only a few hundred ISIS fighters remain in the centre of Sirte, however, they have managed to maintain control over four neighbourhoods.
Darat explains that advances in residential neighbourhoods must be done carefully. “We’ll do what we did in Dollar and move forward house by house,” he said.
“We’re resting now and if there are airstrikes it will make our lives easier, but we will advance with or without them,” Darat said.
Many of the pro-GNA fighters are from Misrata, which is close to Sirte. The counterattack on ISIS by GNA forces began in May. Since May around 350 GNA fighters were killed and over 1,500 were wounded.
Most of Sirte’s 80,000 residents have escaped the fighting by fleeing to nearby cities and towns.
Mohamed Abu Dabbous, one of the pro-GNA fighters fighting near Zafraan and Area Two districts said, “we wish they’d (US forces) do it (fire airstrikes at ISIS) on a more regular basis.”
Abu Dabbous’s brigade is struggle to advance because of landmines. “In 2011 we dealt with Gaddafi’s snipers, but it was easier then because there weren’t any landmines,” he said.
There is a group of ISIS snipers who are firing at them from unfinished apartments that has slowed his brigade’s advance, said Abu Dabbous, adding that they will likely become targets for US airstrikes.