Libya forces battle for Tripoli despite UN truce calls

Over 8,000 flee Libya fighting: UN

13 April, 2019 12:00 AM printer

TRIPOLI: Forces loyal to Libya’s internationally recognised government and a rival commander battled for control of the capital Thursday after UN chief Antonio Guterres warned the country faced a “very dangerous situation”, reports AFP.

Thousands of people have fled heavy fighting on the outskirts of Tripoli that has left dozens dead and prompted mounting global alarm.

Guterres appealed Wednesday for a halt to hostilities to prevent the situation spiralling out of control.

“It’s still time to stop,” he told reporters after briefing the UN Security Council in a closed session in New York. “It’s still time for a ceasefire to take place, for a cessation of hostilities to take place, and to avoid the worst, which would be a dramatic, bloody battle for Tripoli.”

Nearly a week of fighting on the city’s doorstep has already killed 56 people and wounded 266, the World Health Organization said.

“Thousands of people have fled their homes, while others are trapped in conflict areas. Hospitals inside and outside (Tripoli) are receiving daily casualties,” it said.

The UN chief was in Libya when forces loyal to military strongman Khalifa Haftar last week launched an offensive to capture the capital, which is controlled by a UN-backed government and an array of militias. Haftar backs a rival administration based in eastern Libya that refuses to recognise the authority of the Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez al-Sarraj.

“Our forces continue to advance on all fronts and are converging on the centre of the capital,” Ahmad al-Mesmari, spokesman of Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), said Thursday at a press conference.

He said the LNA had issued arrest warrants against Sarraj and other GNA officials for “treason”, “support for terror groups” and “conspiracy with foreign countries”.

The Security Council met for more than two hours behind closed doors to consider how to address the fighting, which has derailed efforts to end the instability that has beset Libya since its 2011 uprising.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said the situation in Libya was “increasingly worrying”. She called for the “full implementation of the humanitarian truce” and the “return to the political negotiations and the political track”.

Meanwhile, more than 8,000 people have fled fighting around Libya’s capital, half of whom have been displaced over the last two days, the United Nations said Friday.

“Displacements from areas affected by the clashes in an around Tripoli continue to surge,” UN spokesman Rheal Leblanc told reporters in Geneva.

Aside from those who have fled, Leblanc said that “many families remain stranded inside conflict affected areas,” with safety fears rising and supplies running short.

Military strongman Khalifa Haftar has launched an offensive to take Tripoli from the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), intensifying the crisis in the country riven by divisions since the NATO-backed overthrow of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.