The fight for the capital is intensifying despite calls for a truce.
Fighting between Libya’s warring factions, which flared up five days ago, on April 7, 2019 saw some of the fiercest battles as militiamen loyal to strongman Marshal Khalifa Haftar continued their march on the capital, Tripoli. They entered the Khalat Fourjan neighbourhood, just over 10 km from the city centre.
Radio France International, RFI said the advance followed air raids by Haftar’s self-proclaimed Libyan Arab National Army on a Tripoli warehouse containing military vehicles of the Tripoli-based internationally-recognised union government of Fayez al-Sarraj.
Haftar sources claimed they destroyed over 10 vehicles in their bid to open an eastern flank into the capital, though local media said only a few were destroyed. Forces loyal to al-Sarraj responded by launching “Operation Volcanic Anger,” firing rockets at Wattyia Airport located west of Tripoli, which is controlled by Haftar.
As fighting intensified, United Nations appeals for a humanitarian pause and ceasefire fell on deaf ears. However, the UN announced it was still going ahead with the holding of the national conference on Libya from April 14-16, 2019 in Ghadamès in the south-west of the country. The dialogue is expected to pave the way for the holding of elections.
America’s Africa High Command, Africom, described the situation in Libya as “complex and unpredictable.” Africom went on to announce the temporary pull-out of some of its troops from Libya. Italian oil giant, ENI, also recalled its staff as well as Italian nationals from the country. United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, called on Libyan leaders to return to political talks mediated by the UN. He expressed grave concern at fighting in Tripoli and called for an immediate end to the offensive, the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC reported.
Oil-rich Libya has been thrown into virtual disintegration since former leader Muammar Gadhafi was overthrown and assassinated in a Western-backed civil war in 2011. The country has since been overrun by rebels and extremist Islamist militants. Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who has been stepping up his control of the country over the years, is now determined to extend his territory from his base in the east of the country to the west by first taking the capital