Death toll rises in fighting around Libyan capital
At least 32 people have been killed and around 50 wounded in fighting around Libyan capital Tripoli after an offensive to take the city by the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Khalifa Haftar.
Libyan Health minister A’hmid Omar gave the updated death toll in an interview with Libya’s Al-Ahrar television station . Haftar’s forces have so far said 14 of their fighters have died.
Fierce clashes raged on Sunday near Tripoli and continued Monday between the LNA and troops loyal to the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).
The two sides also exchanged air strikes days after Haftar, who backs an administration in eastern Libya opposed to the GNA, launched an offensive Thursday to seize the capital.
The clashes came despite calls by the United Nations and the United States for an urgent ceasefire.
The forces loyal to the GNA on Sunday announced a counteroffensive named “Volcano of Anger”. Spokesman Colonel Mohamed Gnounou said the operation was aimed at purging all Libyan cities of Haftar’s fighters.
Haftar’s offensive has threatened to plunge the country into a full-blown civil war and once again thwart diplomatic efforts to find a solution to Libya’s woes.
In other developments:
- Militias in Libya’s Misurata have amassed thousands of fighters to head to Tripoli and its surroundings to prop up embattled Government of National Accord (GNA) chief Fayez al-Sarraj against the offensive launched by Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar against the capital.
- Since the beginning of the offensive, the Libyan National Army, has already gained control over several cities near Tripoli and over Tripoli International Airport. The GNA later said that the airport had been retaken by its forces, but the LNA refuted the claims.
- LNA has declared a no-fly zone over the western parts of Libya, which are governed by the GNA, and has warned that all aircraft, apart from commercial flights, that breach the restrictions will be targeted by the LNA.
- At least 2,200 people have fled from fighting south of the Libyan capital Tripoli since April 4, the United Nations humanitarian office said in a report on Monday, and many civilians were trapped and cut off from emergency services. It said aid agencies on the ground had enough emergency medical supplies and trauma kits to treat up to 210,000 individuals and 900 injuries for three months.
- Russia on Sunday blocked a UN Security Council statement that would have called on forces loyal to Haftar to halt their advance on Tripoli, diplomats said. Moscow insisted that the formal statement urge all Libyan forces to stop fighting, but the proposed change was opposed by the United States, council diplomats said.Britain then proposed a more formal text for approval to the 15-member council that was opposed by Russia. All council statements are agreed by consensus. Russia has been a key supporter of Haftar.