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UN: 'Unprecedented' fighting in Libya city of Derna

People sourrunf the scene of a car bomb attack in Benghazi, Libya on 25 May 2018 [Ahmed Sanalla/Twitter]

Fighting in the Libyan city of Derna has reached unprecedented levels, with air raids, shelling of residential areas and heavy ground clashes, the United Nations humanitarian office said in a report quoted by Reuters today.

There were severe water, food and medicine shortages, and electricity and water were completely cut off for the approximately 125,000 of the city's residents, it said in a report that described the violence as "unprecedented" there.

The eastern city has been encircled since July 2017 by the Libyan National Army (LNA), whose commander Khalifa Haftar opposes the internationally recognised government based in the country's west.

"The LNA has announced that it now has control over the city's eastern and western entrances … and surrounding areas where clashes have been taking place," the UN report said.

Haftar's forces are trying to seize the city from a coalition of local fighters known as the Derna Mujahideen Shura Council (DMSC) or Derna Protection Forces (DPF).

Haftar says he is trying to rid Libya of the threat of militants. Critics accuse him of branding all his opponents as "terrorists" as he seeks to expand his power.

Egypt, which backs the LNA, has also carried out air strikes in Derna against what it said were training camps sending militants into Egypt to carry out attacks.

The UN said no aid has entered the city since mid-March, apart from a delivery of kidney dialysis materials and medication earlier this week.

READ: Libya Haftar says his forces to liberate Derna 'soon'

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