The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has today called on all militias to observe an immediate ceasefire and restore calm in southern Tripoli. The call comes following clashes today in southern Tripoli between militias aligned to the internationally-recognized Presidency Council and Government of National Accord headed by Faiez Serraj.
The indiscriminate firing has led to deaths and injuries to civilians as well as collateral damage. The Serraj Ministry of Health has reported 5 deaths and 31 injuries so far.
In fact the Libya Observer reports that heavy fighting broke out in Libyan capital Tripoli on Monday between rival groups under the Presidential Council’s fragile authority. The report says that armed groups of the 7th Brigade – a.k.a Kanyat – from Tarhuna city advanced early in the day in Khallat Furjan, Ein Zara, Wadi Rabea and Salah Eddine districts in southern Tripoli in a bid to gain more control in the region. The 7th Brigade has been stationed in Tripoli’s southern Gasir Ben Ghashir district for more than a year by orders from the Presidential Council to protect the southern borders of Tripoli.
According to the report, while advancing, the 7th brigade exchanged heavy fire with a coalition of armed brigades made up of Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade, Misrata’s 301 Brigade, Bab Tajoura Brigade, Ghanewa Brigade and Nawasi Brigade. The fighting has left on civilian dead and three others wounded due to indiscriminate shelling, according to initial figures released by Tripoli Security Directorate. It also caused widespread damage to the people’s properties.
Two senior commanders Hamid Hawzir from Nawasi Brigade and Morwan Karaa from Bab Tajoura Brigade were reported dead in the clashes. The Ministry of Health declared a state of emergency and urged its staff to stay on high alert. The 7th Brigade claimed control of Yarmouk military camp in Salah Eddine district, but a source from Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade denied this.
The reason of clashes remains unclear with the 7th Brigade accusing Tripoli brigades of being “corrupt.” Meanwhile, the Presidential Council condemned what it said “the armed attack by outlaw groups on Tripoli.” It said in a statement after hours of heavy gunfire that orders were given to deter the attackers, warning them of international sanctions. For their part, Tarhuna tribal leaders vowed in a statement support to the 7th Brigade “in its war on corruption and thieves of public money.”
The UNSMIL said that it was ‘‘following the clashes in and around Tripoli with grave concern and calls on all parties to immediately cease all military action’’.
It added that it was ‘‘concerned by the use of indiscriminate fire and heavy weapons in densely populated residential areas, endangering civilian lives and reminds all parties of their duty to protect civilians, in accordance with international humanitarian and human rights law’’.
It stressed that ‘‘political aims must not be pursued through violence and warns that the build-up of armed groups and hostile acts and rhetoric risk a wider military confrontation.
The European Union also called for ceasefire and end of hostilities in Tripoli.
“We are following closely the surprising violence that erupted in Tripoli and we call on all parties to restore calm as there is no military solution to the crisis.” Bawabat Al-Wasat reported the spokesman for the EU as saying.
Likewise, the Italian Embassy in Libya condemned the violence on Twitter.
“We stand by the people of Tripoli as they face renewed violence in the streets of their beautiful capital. Our condolences go to the victims families, our wishes of prompt recovery to all those injured. Only dialogue can bring peace and reconciliation in Libya, not military action.” It said.
The British ambassador to Libya, Frank Baker, also weighed in on Twitter: “Very concerned by the clashes in Tripoli. We call on all parties to cease military action, protect civilians, respect international law and engage in dialogue to de-escalate the situation Libya.”