Battle rages for Libya's capital, airport bombed

Battle rages for Libya's capital, airport bombed

Battle rages for Libya's capital, airport bombed

Eastern forces and troops loyal to the government in Tripoli fought on the outskirts of Libya's capital on Wednesday as the battle forced thousands of residents to flee their homes.

The Libyan National Army forces, led by Haftar, have been seeking to reach the centre of the capital Tripoli after they have easily advanced through the desert and reached urban areas that form a more hard stage for them, amid increasing numbers of deaths and displacement and the West's fears that this will threaten its peace plan.

They are claiming responsibility for the air strike on the only serviceable airport in the city which has been condemned by the United Nations.

Clashes between rival Libyan forces for control of Tripoli escalated on Monday as the death toll from days of fighting rose to at least 51, including both combatants and civilians, and the city's only functioning airport said it was hit by an airstrike.

The LNA-backed parliament, which was elected in 2014 and is based in the city of Tobruk, controls the east of Libya, while the internationally recognised government, established in 2015, governs Libya's western parts from Tripoli.

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.

Libya has been rocked by violence and deadly power struggles between several armed groups since NATO-backed rebels overthrew dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

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 worldwide calls to stop the attack.

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Separately, UN Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet reiterated those calls and urged both sides to refrain from further escalation. A cease-fire is imperative to ensure that civilians trapped in fighting around the Libyan capital can escape to safer areas and that the wounded can be evacuated, he said.

There have been no immediate reports of casualties and damages.

Hifter's forces said Saturday they had seized the old airport.

Meanwhile, parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh said that the LNA's march on Tripoli is in line with the constitutional declaration and parliament decision to rid the capital of militias.

Moscow is a key supporter of Haftar, along with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

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.

The violence has thrown into doubt a United Nations plan for an April 14 to16 conference to plan elections as a way out of the anarchy since the Western-backed toppling of Gaddafi eight years ago.

United Nations envoy Ghassan Salame, announcing its postponement, said: "We can not ask people to take part in the conference during gunfire and air strikes".

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