TRIPOLI, BENGHAZI: Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar’s forces agreed on Saturday to a UN-backed humanitarian truce around Tripoli for the festival of Eid Al-Adha, after the unity government conditionally accepted a cease-fire.
But as the UN was trying to broker a truce in Tripoli, a car bomb explosion in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi killed two UN staff on Saturday, several medical sources said.
Libya’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) said earlier it was conditionally willing to accept a truce in fighting around the capital for the three-day holiday which starts on Sunday.
The UN had called on the GNA and Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) to commit to a humanitarian truce by midnight on Friday.
Haftar’s forces have been fighting since early April to seize Tripoli from the GNA.
The strongman’s spokesman Ahmad Al-Mesmari said on Saturday that his forces “announce a halt to all military operations ... in the suburbs of Tripoli.”
Mesmari said the truce had gone into effect at 3 p.m. on Sat
urday and would last until the same time on Monday afternoon.
The GNA had said late on Friday it was keen to “ease the suffering of the citizens and allow rescue workers to accomplish their mission” and would accept “a humanitarian truce for Eid Al-Adha.”
But it listed several conditions, saying the cease-fire must be observed “in all combat zones, with a cessation of direct and indirect fire and movement of troops.”
It also said the truce must include “a ban on flights and reconnaissance overflights” across the country’s entire airspace.
The GNA also called on the UN mission in Libya (UNSMIL) to “ensure the implementation of the truce and note any breaches.”
UNSMIL had expressed “regret” earlier on Saturday that it had “not received any response” from Haftar’s forces following its call for a cease-fire, and urged all sides to respect the sanctity of the festival.
Haftar’s spokesman, talking from the eastern city of Benghazi, then announced the cease-fire “out of respect for this occasion’s place in our spirits ... so that Libyan citizens can celebrate this Eid in peace.”
UN envoy Ghassan Salame had already called several times for humanitarian truces, without success.
In a video conference with the UN Security Council late last month, Salame warned against mounting tensions and called for a cease-fire for Eid Al-Adha.
Meanwhile, a Reuters reporter at a Benghazi hospital where casualties of the blast were taken saw a list of names of those killed identifying them as part of the UN Libya mission (UNSMIL).
Several medical and security officials at the hospital said two UN staff, one of them foreign, had been killed.
UNSMIL spokesman Jean El Alam said via email that the organization was “in the process of gathering information.”
The explosion happened in front of a shopping mall and bank. At least one burned out UN car could be seen at the scene.
Around the time of the blast, Haftar, announced a halt to military operations during the Eid Al-Adha holiday, which lasts from Saturday until Tuesday, according to a statement from his forces in Benghazi.