Monday, 22 April, 2019

Tripoli's only functioning airport under attack

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Gen Haftar's forces prepare for Tripoli battle Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Gen Haftar's forces prepare for Tripoli battle
Leonard Rios | 10 April, 2019, 07:29

The pro-Haftar forces, who have named themselves the Libyan National Army, are said to have carried out the attack on the last remaining airport. 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".

There have been no immediate reports of casualties and damages.

The death toll - mainly composed of fighters - was reported by local health facilities near the capital to the World Health Organisation (WHO) - Reuters reported, thousands of civilians have fled the city.

On Monday, an air strike closed the city's only functioning airport. That left Misrata airport, 200 km (125 miles) to the east down the coast, as the closest option for Tripoli residents.

"Refugees told UNHCR that they were frightened and anxious about their safety, given ongoing fighting in the vicinity, and that they were left with minimal supplies", the statement said, adding the agency was working to ensure other detained migrants and refugees were not in harm's way.

On Monday, a warplane took out Tripoli's only functioning airport, and the number of displaced people - 3,400 at the last United Nations count - is mounting alongside the casualties.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in NY on Monday that "unfortunately" the United Nations received "no positive news" in response to its urgent appeal for a truce in Tripoli.

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 global calls to stop the attack. The upsurge in violence is further increasing the misery of refugees and migrants arbitrarily detained in detention centres in areas of active conflict.

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Haftar's forces have said 14 of their fighters have died. However, militias supporting the United Nations -backed government in Tripoli claimed Monday they recaptured the facility.

The media office for Haftar's army said 22 troops had been killed. At least two doctors are among the dead, while more than 180 others have been injured.

Russian Federation on April 8 called for calm on all sides.

A United Nations -sponsored peace conference, scheduled to start on Sunday in the southwestern town of Ghadames, was postponed by envoy Ghassan Salame, who said he was working to hold the meeting "as soon as possible".

Also Monday, U.N. envoy Ghassan Salame said he met with Fayez Sarraj, head of the government in Tripoli, to discuss how the U.N. mission "can assist at this critical and hard juncture". He said the attack constituted a serious violation of worldwide humanitarian law which prohibits attacks against civilian infrastructure.

"We need all the parties involved in this conflict to attend", Dujarric said.

In Cairo, Agila Saleh, head of Libya's east-based parliament, backed Hifter's offensive and the Libya National Army, saying that militias have been "hijacking" the capital. "It will protect them, their properties and freedom", he said after meeting with Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Abul Gheit in Cairo.

In another sign of the situation worsening on the ground, a contingent of U.S. forces supporting the U.S. Africa Command evacuated Libya for security reasons, a U.S. statement said.

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