Published: Wed, April 10, 2019
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

Airstrike forces closure of Libya’s only operational airport

Airstrike forces closure of Libya’s only operational airport

Eastern Libyan forces sought to reach the centre of Tripoli after their easy advance through desert hit a trickier urban phase, with deaths and displacements mounting and the West aghast at the threat to its peace plan.

Unity government health minister A'hmid Omar told Libya's Al-Ahrar television station late Sunday that around 50 people had been wounded along with those killed.

The US military is among those to withdraw its supporting forces based in the country, blaming the "complex and unpredictable" situation and "increased unrest" on the ground.

Since Thursday, clashes have broken out in a number of areas on the outskirts of Tripoli, including at the disused worldwide airport on the city's southern edge. As Tarek Megerisi put it in a recent article on Haftar and the civil war: "Haftar's ascension has been driven by foreign powers whose understanding of Libya is skewed and whose interests are at odds with that of the Libyan population and many states dependent on Libya's stability".

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. "The sound of fighting seems to be closing in", he said. The U.S. has so far not joined the fighting against Haftar's forces.

The Health Ministry of the Tripoli-based government said at least 27 people, including civilians, were killed and at least 27 wounded since the start of Hifter's offensive against the capital.

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Its elite force, Saiqa (Lightning), numbers some 3,500, while Haftar's sons also have well-equipped troops, LNA sources say.

The two sides have also continued to trade blows over three strategic airports near Tripoli.

On Sunday, April 7, Russian Federation blocked proposals for the council to adopt a formal statement, instead insisting that all Libyan forces be urged to stop fighting, diplomats said.

Ribeiro, reminded all parties of their obligations under International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law to ensure the safety of all civilians and civilian infrastructure, including schools, hospitals, and public utilities, and to allow unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access to all affected areas.

That airport has been abandoned since 2014, after suffering extensive damage during heavy fighting between rival armed groups. "It will protect them, their properties and freedom", he said after meeting with Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Abul Gheit in Cairo.

Forces allied to the Tripoli administration were seen inside the airport, while clashes with the eastern forces were raging south of the airport, a Reuters reporter at the scene and residents said.

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