Libya airport reopens after brief rupture in cease-fire

Grounded air-planes sit on the tarmac at Mitiga International Airport in Tripoli. Rocket fire on August 11 hit the Libyan capital's sole functioning airport, violating a temporary truce between the unity government and forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar, airport authorities said. (AFP)
Updated 12 August 2019
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Libya airport reopens after brief rupture in cease-fire

  • Khalifa Haftar and Tripoli govt agreed to a truce for Eid Al-Adha holidays

TRIPOLI: Flights have resumed from the Libyan capital’s sole functioning airport as calm returned on Monday to the outskirts of Tripoli after a temporary truce was violated the previous day.

“Reopening airspace at Mitiga International Airport after maintenance and cleaning ... so that airlines can renew their flights,” the facility’s management said late on Sunday on Facebook.

The Tripoli-based government and forces loyal to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar had agreed to a truce for the three-day holiday of Eid Al-Adha that began on Sunday.

Haftar launched an offensive to take Libya’s capital in early April, but encountered stiff resistance, resulting in months of stalemate in southern Tripoli’s outskirts.

Flights from Mitiga airport were suspended for several hours on Sunday after rocket fire hit the airport, a few meters from the runway where planes were parked.

Located east of Tripoli, Mitiga is a former military air base that has been used by civilian traffic since Tripoli International Airport suffered severe damage during fighting in 2014.

Mitiga is in a zone under the control of forces loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and has often been targeted.

Haftar’s Libyan National Army and the GNA had on Saturday agreed to a UN-sponsored humanitarian truce for Al-Adha, although the GNA listed conditions, including a cessation of troop movements.

The GNA blamed Haftar’s forces for the attack on the airport, in which no casualties or serious damage were reported, and for a separate alleged attack in the Soug Al-Jomaa district of Tripoli.

Over the past four months, 1,093 people have been killed in the fighting and 5,752 wounded, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), while more than 120,000 people have been displaced.

Libya has been mired in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.


Syria ‘captures’ drone near Israeli-occupied Golan Heights

Updated 20 min 27 sec ago

Syria ‘captures’ drone near Israeli-occupied Golan Heights

  • Israel says it targets bases of Iranian forces and its militant group Hezbollah in Syria

DAMASCUS, ISTANBUL: Syrian authorities captured and dismantled on Saturday a drone rigged with cluster bombs near the border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, state news agency SANA said.

SANA gave no further details about the drone but posted several photos of the unmanned aerial vehicle.

Israel frequently conducts airstrikes and missile attacks inside war-torn Syria but rarely confirms them. Israel says it targets mostly bases of Iranian forces and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah in Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said it was not clear if Syrian troops or members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah controlled the drone. Hezbollah has fighters in different parts of Syria where they are fighting on the side of Bashar Assad’s forces.

The incident came two days after another drone was destroyed over the Damascus suburb of Aqraba, where an Israeli airstrike killed two Hezbollah operatives last month.

No one claimed responsibility for the drones on Saturday.

In neighboring Lebanon, a government investigation concluded on Thursday that two Israeli drones were on an attack mission when they crashed in the capital last month, one of them armed with 4.5 kilo of explosives.

Erdogan frustrated

Meanwhile in neighboring Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday expressed frustration with what he said was the US’ continued support for Syrian Kurdish militants.

Speaking to reporters before his departure for the UN meetings in New York, Erdogan reiterated that Turkey had completed all preparations for a possible unilateral military operation in northeast Syria, along the Turkish border east of the Euphrates River.

Last month, Turkey and the US agreed to take steps toward establishing a so-called “safe zone” in the area that would keep US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces away from Turkey’s border. 

Turkey has, however, warned that it will not allow the US to delay the establishment of the safe zone and has threatened to launch an operation on its own within two weeks.

Ankara considers the Syrian Kurdish fighters to be “terrorists” due to their links to Kurdish rebels in Turkey.

“We have no wish of confronting the United States,” Erdogan said. “However, we don’t have the luxury of ignoring the support that the United States is giving terrorist organizations in an area where it was not invited to be.”

Erdogan said he would discuss the issue during a possible meeting with US President Donald Trump in New York.

The YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces has said they will pull back up to 14 km in some areas. Turkey says the US had agreed that the “safe zone” should extend 32 km into Syria.

Erdogan reiterated complaints over US support for the Kurdish fighters, saying Washington was providing them with arms.

His comments about border preparations came a day after two security sources said doctors have been stationed in southern Turkish provinces to prepare for a possible incursion into Syria.