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Thousands of people displaced and Haftar’s forces continue their attack on Tripoli

Libyan forces loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA), in Tripoli on September 25, 2018 [MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty]
Libyan forces loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA), in Tripoli on 25 September 2018 [MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty]

Thousands of civilians have been displaced from the Libyan capital Tripoli, while dozens have been killed due to ongoing clashes and Libyan National Army forces’, led by Khalifa Haftar, continued of their attack on the capital despite UN calls for de-escalation.

At least 35 people have been killed since 4 April, the date of the start of Haftar forces’ attack on the Libyan capital, according to new data issued by the Government of National Accord, amid increasing international calls to stop the attack.

The Minister of Health in Tripoli, Hamid Omar, talked on Libya Alahrar TV channel about civilian victims without specifying their number. He pointed out that 40 people have also been injured.

The forces of the Libyan Government of National Accord have regained Tripoli International Airport after defeating the forces of the retired Libyan Major General Khalifa that launched an attack on the capital Tripoli. The Government of National Accord’s “Volcano of Anger” operation tightened control over the airport after violent clashes with Haftar’s forces, which left behind military machines and weapons after their withdrawal from the airport.

An atmosphere of calm prevailed in the centre of the airport, while the Government of National Accord deployed additional military enforcements towards the fighting axes in southern Tripoli, coming from the cities of Zawiya and Misurata. “Volcano of Anger” trapped Haftar’s Al-Wadi Brigade in the city of Sabratha.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report on Monday that, since 4 April, 2,800 people had been displaced due to the clashes in the south of the capital Tripoli, adding that many civilians have been trapped and have not been able to access emergency services.

READ: Libya army launches operation ‘Volcano of Rage’ against Haftar

“The rapid deployment of the forces could lead to the displacement of large numbers of people,” the report said. It added that relief agencies on the ground have enough emergency medical supplies to treat up to 210,000 people and handle 900 injury cases for three months.

The United Nations has expressed concerns over the civilians trapped in areas of clashes in the surroundings of the Libyan capital, which killed four civilians, including two doctors out of dozens of dead militants.

According to the report, the security situation in western Libya is still “unclear and unpredictable.”

Renegade Libyan Field Marshall Haftar

The Libyan National Army forces, led by Haftar, have been seeking to reach the centre of the capital Tripoli after they have easily advanced through the desert and reached urban areas that form a more difficult stage for them, amid increasing numbers of deaths and displacement and the West’s fears that this will threaten its peace plan.

Libya’s falling into civil war again, after its division into areas under the control of rival factions since the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, threatens to block oil and gas supplies, increase immigration to Europe, and allow Islamist extremists to take advantage of the chaos.

The Libyan National Army, led by the former officer in Kaddafi’s army, said that 19 of its soldiers had been killed in the past few days, with its tightened control over the internationally recognised government in Tripoli.

The Libyan National Army carried out air strikes on southern Tripoli, while it seeks to advance towards the centre of the city from the abandoned airport.

However, armed groups coming from the nearby city of Misurata are supporting the Tripoli government, led by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, to counter the Libyan National Army. Al-Sarraj’s government said that 11 people were killed, without identifying from which side they were.

READ: EU official calls for de-escalation in Libya

Al-Sarraj has been heading the Tripoli government since 2016 under a UN-mediated agreement, which Haftar has boycotted.

The Libyan National Army, allied to a parallel government based in Benghazi in the east, controlled the oil-rich south of the country earlier in the year before its surprising and rapid advancement towards the coastal capital.

Haftar’s forces have advanced in mostly low-populated areas, but taking control of Tripoli constitutes a much greater challenge for them.

The violence has cast doubt on the UN plan to hold a conference from 14 to 16 April to arrange for the elections, as a way out of the ongoing chaos since Gaddafi’s ousting under Western support eight years ago.

The United Nations mission to Libya called for a two-hour truce in southern Tripoli to evacuate civilians and injured people. However, it appears that the truce has not been respected.

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