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UN appeals for 'urgent' Libya truce amid battle for Tripoli

Libyan militas loyal to the Tripoli government have rushed to the city's defence [AFP]

Date of publication: 7 April, 2019

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The UN has called for a two-hour truce to evacuate the wounded and civilians from Tripoli's southern suburbs as government forces and Haftar's LNA battle for the capital.

 

The UN made an "urgent" appeal on Sunday for a two-hour truce in the southern suburbs of Tripoli to evacuate wounded and civilians as Libyan forces of rogue general Khalifa Haftar pushed to take the capital. 

UNSMIL, the UN mission in Libya, called on "all armed parties in the Wadi Rabi area, al-Kayekh, Gasr Ben Ghachir and al-Aziziya to respect a humanitarian truce (between 2pm and 4pm GMT) to secure the evacuation of wounded and civilians by rescue teams and the Libyan Red Crescent". 

Rivalries between the internationally-recognised government and Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army threaten to plunge the country into a full-blown civil war after Haftar on Thursday launched an offensive on Tripoli.

After a pause overnight on Saturday, fierce fighting flared anew on Sunday morning south of Tripoli.

As clashes raged in the mainly farmland region of Wadi Raba and the disused international airport south of the capital, a spokesman for pro-GNA forces said a "counter-offensive" had been launched to push back Haftar's forces.

Colonel Mohamed Gnounou told reporters that operation "Volcano of Anger" was aimed at "purging all Libyan cities of aggressor and illegitimate forces", in reference to Haftar fighters.

The LNA meanwhile announced it had carried out its first air raid on a Tripoli suburb, despite calls by the international community to halt hostilities.

At least 21 have been reported dead since Haftar launched the offensive, according to sources in Tripoli cited by AFP.

GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj warned on Saturday of a "war without a winner" and said that reinforcements were pouring into Tripoli from several regions.

Powerful armed groups from the western city of Misrata and fighters from Zentan and Zawiya - all battle-hardened militiamen who took part in the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi - have joined the battle.

At least one armed group from Misrata known as Brigade 166 arrived on Saturday in eastern Tripoli with dozens of vehicles, some mounted with anti-aircraft guns, to join the counter-offensive, an AFP photographer said.

"We are waiting for orders to repel any advance by the enemy towards Tripoli," said the group's spokesman Khaled Abu Jazia.

Analysts say Haftar has been buoyed by a series of successful military operations that have brought all of the east and much of the south of Libya under his control.

A field marshal who served under Gadaffi and now backs an administration in eastern Libya opposed to the GNA, Haftar was counting on a swift battle to capture Tripoli but some experts say he miscalculated.

"To date, Haftar's operation has mostly failed to go according to plan, and it has now galvanised western Libyan forces against him," said analyst Wolfram Lacher.

"He now faces the prospect of a protracted war south of Tripoli, or of a decisive defeat," said Lacher, a researcher with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP).

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