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Derna suffers as military forces tighten siege

August 7, 2017 at 5:30 pm

Residents of Derna in east Libya say they are facing critical shortages after Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) tightened its longstanding siege around the city last week.

Haftar’s eastern-based LNA, one of a number of factions that have vied for power in Libya since a 2011 uprising ended Muammar Gaddafi’s four-decade rule, is waging a military campaign against a coalition of militants and ex-rebels known as the Derna Mujahideen Shura Council (DMSC) that controls Derna.

Attention has shifted to the coastal city after Haftar announced victory in a three-year military campaign against a similar coalition in Benghazi, 350 kilometres to the west, a month ago.

The LNA launches occasional air strikes over Derna and at the end of July one of its fighter jets was shot down. The pilot was killed. The LNA subsequently reinforced its siege.

The situation is extremely bad. Everything is stopped, the supplies are depleted and nothing is getting into the city

one resident told Reuters by telephone.

“There is a total blockade with no entry or exit. They only allow you to leave as a displaced person.”

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Another resident said most bakeries had closed because of a shortage of fuel, and that petrol stations had been shut for eight months. There was an acute shortage of medicine, he said, though some oxygen tanks were delivered to a hospital in Derna today.

The United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Libya has expressed concern over reports of “severe shortages of basic necessities, including lifesaving medical supplies” in Derna, while the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli called on all sides to “facilitate ways to provide for all the needs of the citizens”.

In May, the city was also a target of Egyptian air strikes. Egypt said it was responding to an attack against Coptic Christians on its territory, though that attack was claimed by Daesh.

Haftar, a figure many believe is seeking national power in Libya, has enjoyed strong backing from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, as well as the United Arab Emirates.

Western envoys have met Haftar frequently in recent months, and say he has to be part of any solution to Libya’s conflict.