North African distances
Gaddafi expelled all Italians from Libya in 1970. Libya had been the North African staging post for the Italian-German axis in WWII, as Libya had been under Italian control/occupation since the 19th century.
On Al Jazeera last night there was a map of the north coast of Libya with Tubruq on it which, when it was known as Tobruk, was the site of a major and extended battle during WWII. Rommel held Tobruk for 240 days and then lost it to the Eighth Army.
On the maps we are seeing on the news, one realises just how close Tunisia and Libya are to Sicily. Lampedusa, a miniature and bleak little island 70 miles off the coast of Tunisia is still part of Italy and until 1994 had a US Coast Guard base on it, used to monitor Libya and fired upon by Libya after the US bombed it in 1986 killing, among many others, Gaddafi's daughter. Lampedusa is the main entry point for African refugees/ illegal immigrants / economic migrants to Europe. Although closer to Tunisia, Libya is the easier country to leave from, evidently.
During WWII Tunisia and Libya were simply known by the Allies as the Western Desert. Strategically important, it was the launching point for the Italian invasion which began with the landings on Sicily. In On Site 22: WAR, Aisling O'Carroll wrote about the use of camouflage in the desert where whole dummy armies were installed in misleading locations. This was a North African war conducted, it seems, without local involvement, something that seems difficult to believe now.