Mystery over role of Italy hospital in Misurata

Mystery over role of Italy hospital in Misurata

On the outskirts of Misurata, just a few kilometers away from the city’s Air College, is where one of the most controversial facilities in Libya currently located. The Italian military hospital continues to stir up questions over the justification for its presence since the facility achieved its declared objective years ago.

Set up in September 2016 by Italy at the request of former Libyan prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj, the hospital was aimed to provide medical assistance to forces loyal to Al-Sarraj’s government who were battling in Sirte at that time.

The hospital is run by task force which includes 300 Italian servicemen, 65 of whom are doctors and nurses, while the remaining 235 others are soldiers responsible for protection and logistic operations.

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Images of the Italian facility’s compound in Misurata. The buildings’ rooftops are seen marked by word ‘Italy’. Source: Satellite footage by Google Earth

The establishment of the hospital was dubbed “Hippocrates Operation” by the Italian defense ministry whose website places the field hospital on its list of “Concluded International Operations”. The Italian ministry also states the hospital’s mission has ended on December 2017.

However, the Italian facility is still present in Misurata despite the fact that it is officially listed as a concluded operation.

Furthermore, extremist groups no longer have a stronghold in Libya nor any territorial control. In fact, there has not been a full-scale conflict in the country since 2020.

With no wounded fighters been treated inside it, the purpose of the hospital has been called into question considering that its presence is costing Italy 50 million euros annually, according to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

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Pictures from February 27, 2017 showing the exterior of the facility at that time. Source: Italian embassy in Libya (via Twitter).

Over the years, Italian commanders who run the facility avoided to disclose its current exact role after it had accomplished its declared mission. Instead, Italian military leaders gave obscure statements to journalists about the nature of hospital’s work.

Speaking to Italian journalist Lorenzo Cremonesi of Corriere della Sera after the battle against ISIS ended on October 2017, Colonel Marco Iovinelli said that “today our hospital has a more political value than a medical or military one”.

Five years later since Iovinelli’s statement, specifically this year on May 4, Libyan prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh made a surprise visit to the hospital, according to Italian news agency Nova. He was the first Libyan leader to be reported in the facility since its establishment.

Notably, just a month after Dbeibeh’s visit, Italian army corps general Francesco Paolo Figliuolo also arrived at the facility on June 9 to declare that its mission “has evolved”.

“Today our mission has evolved,” Figliuolo told Italian soldiers in Misurata. “It has changed on the basis of the needs proposed by the government of Tripoli”.

Italian general says his country’s mission in Libya “evolved”