East Libyan Forces Launch Military Operation to Retake Key Oil Ports

Forces rapidly advancing to retake control of Libya's largest oil depot in Es Sider

Flames rise from an oil tank set ablaze amid fighting between rival factions at Ras Lanuf terminal, Libya in this handout picture released on June 18, 2018.

East Libyan forces said on Thursday they had rapidly retaken control of large areas of the shuttered oil ports of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, which they retreated from a week ago in the face of an armed attack. 

The head of Libya's National Oil Corporation said he hoped operations at the major terminals of Ras Lanuf and Es Sider would resume in a "couple of days". 

Oil staff were evacuated from the terminals and exports were suspended last Thursday when armed opponents of eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar attacked the ports and occupied them. 

The closure has led to daily production losses of up to 450,000 barrels per day, and two oil storage tanks have been destroyed or badly damaged by fires. 

For the past week, Haftar's Libyan National Army has been pounding the area with daily air strikes as it mobilized to retake the ports. 

LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari said that by mid-morning, troops had already retaken Es Sider and were clashing with opponents as they advanced west. 

LNA units also retook oil storage tanks and Ras Lanuf airstrip, residents and local sources said. 

"After a couple of days we will resume, we start our operations hopefully," NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla told reporters in Vienna.