A senior official in Libya's UN backed government says that Russian mercenaries backing rival leader Khalifa Hifter are spearheading the battle for Tripoli. An estimated 1000 Russian fighters, thought to be from the Wagner group are suspected to have arrived since September. The divided conflict in Libya has drawn other countries in, with the UAE and Egypt supporting Hifter, and Turkey supporting the UN backed government in Tripoli. Russia and Hifter have denied that there are mercenaries fighting in Tripoli. South China Morning Post Washington Post
Syria: Air Defense Intercepts Israeli Missiles. Syria’s army air defense on Sunday intercepted four cruise missiles, launched from Israel, aimed at targets on the outskirts Damascus. “Four cruise missiles were believed to have been launched across the coast through Lebanese airspace toward Syria,” said a source in the regional alliance. In recent years, Israel has launched hundreds of missiles aimed at Iranian-backed militias in the country as well as supplies provided by pro-Iranian Lebanese Hezbollah to support Assad’s forces. Reuters The New York Times
Libyan warlord Khalifa Hifter on Thursday ordered his forces to advance on Tripoli in a “final battle” for the capital. “Today we announce the decisive battle and the advancement toward the heart of the capital to set it free,” Hifter said in a televised speech. “Advance now, our heroes.” Hifter’s self-proclaimed Libyan National Army launched its offensive against the UN-recognized Government of National Accord in April, with support from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia. The assault has drawn international condemnation but little action except from Turkey, which has offered to send troops if Tripoli asks.
By Emil Avdaliani, December 15, 2019
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Russian foreign policy since the mid-2000s tends to be perceived in contradictory terms: as either a negative for Russia or the product of a grand strategic vision on the part of the Russian leadership. It is also often falsely perceived as representing a break with the past. Moscow’s foreign policy moves need to be viewed with a balanced perspective and should be placed in their historical context.
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Egypt has conducted extensive military drills in the Mediterranean in a clear response to and a show of strength against the maritime agreement between the Libyan Government of National Accord and Turkey.
The UN-recognized Libyan government in Tripoli said Thursday it had ratified a security and military accord with Turkey, which has offered to send troops to resist warlord Khalifa Hifter's months-long assault on the capital. In turn Hifter today gave militias defending Tripoli three days to pull out or their hometown of Misrata would be bombed “every day, non stop and in an unprecedentedly intensive way.” He has previously vowed to attack Turkish forces in Libya.
Separately, Pope Francis called Thursday for the closure of Libyan detention camps, where migrants are suffering from torture and slavery. “How can we fail to hear the cry of so many brothers and sisters who prefer to face a tempestuous sea rather than die slowly in Libyan detention camps, places of torture and ignoble slavery?” he said.