Fighting shakes Tripoli as thousands flee homes

A military vehicle of eastern Libyan forces is seen in Ain Zara, south of Tripoli, Libya April 11, 2019. Picture taken April 11, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 12 April 2019

Fighting shakes Tripoli as thousands flee homes

  • After a week of fighting, 75 people have been killed and 323 wounded, including seven civilians killed and 10 wounded
  • So far 6,000 have fled the fighting but WHO has contingency plans in case “thousands if not hundreds of thousands” are displaced

TRIPOLI: Gunfire and blasts echoed through Libya's capital on Friday as eastern forces fought troops of the internationally recognised government in southern Tripoli suburbs, forcing thousands of civilians to flee their homes.
The Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar advanced on the coastal city a week ago in the latest conflict of a cycle of anarchy since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
But armed groups loyal to Prime Minister Fayez Al-Serraj have so far kept them at bay, with fierce fighting round a disused former airport about 11 km (7 miles) from the centre.
A week of battles has killed 75 people - mainly fighters but also 17 civilians - and wounded another 323, according to latest UN tallies. Some 9,500 people have also been forced out of their homes.

About 1,500 refugees and migrants are trapped in detention centres by the Libyan conflict and the risks to their lives are growing by the hour, the head of the UN refugee agency said on Friday.
"These are people in the most vulnerable and dangerous of circumstances," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement, calling for them to be evacuated.
"They must be urgently brought to safety. Simply put, this is a matter of life or death." 

A war plane belonging to the eastern Libyan forces on Friday attacked a military camp of a force allied to the internationally recognized government near the western town of Zuwara, an eastern military source and residents said.
The air strike is the closest yet to an oil and gas facility since eastern forces started an offensive on the capital Tripoli a week ago.
Zuwara is west of the oil and gas port of Mellitah, co-operated by Italy's ENI and Libyan state oil firm NOC.
As the sound of fighting echoed round their city, residents sought to maintain some normality on Friday.
Some families were having breakfast in cafes next to the fish market where people were stocking up for the weekend.
"We have got used to wars. I fear only in God," said Yamim Ahmed, 20, who works in a fast food restaurant.
As well as the humanitarian cost, the conflict threatens to disrupt oil supplies, increase migration across the Mediterranean to Europe, scupper a UN peace plan, and allow militants to exploit the chaos.
Haftar, 75, a former general in Gaddafi's army who later joined the revolt against him, moved his troops out of their eastern stronghold to take the oil-rich, desert south earlier this year, before sweeping up to Tripoli at the start of April.
But Serraj's government has managed to halt the advance, helped by armed groups with machine-guns on pickups and steel containers across the road into Tripoli.
The United Nations, which had hoped to organise a national conference this month bringing the rival eastern and western administrations together to organise an election, has called for a ceasefire. The United States, G7 bloc and European Union have also urged the LNA to halt its offensive.
"We had hoped there would be a national conference, not fighting," said Sulaiman, a businessman enjoying coffee with friends. "Unfortunately, after 40 years of dictatorship we don’t have the right political way to express ourselves, we don’t want military rule or militia rule."
The UN health agency said it fears outbreaks of tuberculosis, measles and diarrhoea due to poor sanitation, especially among those displaced.
"We are keeping a very strong eye on outbreaks - because of displacement into places, and the water sanitation system is compromised. So there is a huge likelihood of outbreaks," World Health Organisation (WHO) representative Dr Syed Jaffar Hussain told a Geneva news briefing from Tripoli.

After a week of fighting, 75 people have been killed and 323 wounded, including seven civilians killed and 10 wounded, Dr. Syed Jaffar Hussain said. 
Five ambulances have also been hit trying to extract wounded people from the conflict zone, he added.
The WHO said it had only two weeks of medical supplies available for Tripoli's hospitals.
Haftar casts himself as a bulwark against militants who wants to restore order to Libya.
He has so far resisted UN pressure to accept a power-sharing settlement, using his leverage as an ally of the West in attempts to stem extremists in North Africa.
Thousands of migrants, mainly Syrians and other Africans, are trapped in squalid detention centres in Tripoli as the fighting approaches.
Libya is a major transit point for migrants pouring into Europe in recent years, mostly trafficked by smuggling gangs.
"Refugees and migrants trapped in detention centres in #Libya are completely dependent on authorities and the humanitarian actors for basic services," tweeted aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).
"There are reports that some in detention centres have not eaten in days ... #Libya is not a place of safety. The #EU cannot continue to turn its back on vulnerable individuals fleeing the country."


Libya airport hit by drone and rocket fire; 2 Haftar troops killed

Updated 15 September 2019

Libya airport hit by drone and rocket fire; 2 Haftar troops killed

  • LNA has been battling since early April to seize Tripoli from GNA forces

TRIPOLI: An airport near the Libyan capital was hit by a new round of rocket fire and airstrikes, the Tripoli-based government said on Saturday, two weeks after it was closed due to repeated attacks.

Separately, two commanders of the Libya National Army (LNA) were killed in a drone strike while trying to capture the capital Tripoli.

The drone strike took place in the town of Tarhouna, southeast of Tripoli. The town has been the main base of the LNA since it lost Gharyan town south of Tripoli.

The Tripoli government and LNA both confirmed that two Tarhouna-based commanders — Mohsen Al-Kani, head of the Kaniyat armed group, and Abdelwahab Al-Magri, head of the 9th brigade — died in the strike. A brother of Kani was also killed.

Both armed groups had teamed up with the LNA whose forces control the east with the help of a parallel government and were key to the Tripoli campaign, analysts said.

The Government of National Accord (GNA) accused forces loyal to eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar of being behind Saturday’s attacks on Mitiga airport, but did not report any casualties.


The Tripoli government and LNA both confirmed that two Tarhouna-based commanders — Mohsen Al-Kani, head of the Kaniyat armed group, and Abdelwahab Al-Magri, head of the 9th brigade — died in the strike.

A drone airstrike hit the airport early on Saturday morning, followed by “Grad rockets launched by (pro-Haftar) militia,” the GNA said on Facebook.

The former military air base had been Tripoli’s sole functioning airport until a rocket attack on Sept. 1 wounded four civilians including three pilgrims returning from Makkah in Saudi Arabia, the latest in a string of similar incidents.

Authorities responded by diverting flights to Misrata, 200 km to the east, until further notice.

The LNA has been battling since early April to seize the capital from pro-GNA forces.

The two sides have since become embroiled in a stalemate in the capital’s southern outskirts.

Haftar’s forces, which accuse the GNA of using Mitiga for military purposes, say they are targeting “Turkish drones” being launched from the airport to attack their troops in southern Tripoli.

The GNA’s Interior Ministry has identified at least 11 attacks on Mitiga since June 21, not including Saturday’s incident.

The Tripoli-based GNA called Saturday’s attack a “desperate attempt” at revenge for losses sustained the previous day.

Since April, the fighting around Tripoli has killed at least 1,093 people and wounded 5,752, while some 120,000 others have been displaced, according to the World Health Organization.