Libya: Thousands flee as Tripoli battle intensifies

first_imgFamilies flee as fighting escalates in Libya Related Residents carry a coffin containing a body of a member of the Libyan pro-internationally recognised government forces who was killed during clashes, during funeral in Tripoli, Libya April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY Residents carry a coffin containing a body of a member of the Libyan pro-internationally recognised government forces who was killed during clashes, during funeral in Tripoli, Libya April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny TPX IMAGES OF THE DAYAt least 2,800 people have fled as fighting intensified near Libya’s capital, Tripoli, according to the UN.Other civilians are reportedly trapped by the clashes and cut off from vital emergency services and thousands of refugees and migrants locked up in detention centres inside Tripoli have been left for days without food and water.In Twitter posts on Sunday, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said it was “very concerned” about the situation in Ain Zara and Qasr bin Ghashir, where there were ongoing clashes, adding that “refugees and migrants should be protected.”This comes after Renegade General Khalifa Haftar on Thursday ordered his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), which is allied to a parallel administration in the east, to march on Tripoli, the base for the internationally recognize government.According to Haftar’s forces, 19 of its soldiers died in recent days as they closed in on the capital.A spokesman for the Tripoli-based Health Ministry said fighting in the south of the capital had killed at least 25 people, including fighters and civilians, and wounded 80.Mitiga airport, in an eastern suburb, was bombed and closed, authorities said. That left Misrata airport, 200 km (125 miles) to the east down the coast, as the closest option for Tripoli residents.Haftar’s LNA, which backs the eastern administration in Benghazi, took the oil-rich south of Libya earlier this year before advancing fast through largely unpopulated desert regions toward Tripoli.Seizing the capital, however, is a much bigger challenge. The LNA has conducted air strikes on the south of the city as it seeks to advance along a road from a disused former international airport.Witnesses said on Monday afternoon that the LNA had lost control of the old airport and withdrawn from positions on the airport road. 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.On Sunday evening, LNA forces had moved up from the airport coming as close as 11 km (seven miles) from the city center before retreating, residents said.The military action has received international condemnation.The United States and the European Union meanwhile called for an immediate end to military operations by the LNA. In a statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for Haftar’s forces to return to status quo ante positions. Pompeo noted that the unilateral military campaign would seriously endanger the lives of civilians and undermine the hope for a better future for Libya.Pompeo maintained that a political solution is the only way to restore peace and unite the country.“There is no military solution to the Libya conflict. This is why the United States continues to press Libyan leaders, together with our international partners, to return to political negotiations mediated by UN Special Representative of the Secretary General, Ghassan Salame,” the statement from Pompeo read in part.Russia added its voice to the rapidly escalating situation by calling for calm on all sides in the conflict. Libya’s Tripoli government to launch inquiry into incident Thousands Escape Rival Militia Fighting in Tripoli last_img