UN calls for ‘urgent’ Libya truce as clashes escalate
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UN calls for ‘urgent’ Libya truce as clashes escalate

Libya is divided between two rival governments: the House of Representatives, based in the eastern city of Tobruk, and the internationally-recognized government of Fayez al-Sarraj, or the Tripoli-based unity Government of National Accord (GNA). A self-styled general, Khalifa Haftar, who enjoys the loyalty of a group of armed militia, has taken it upon himself to protect the government in Tobruk. And while he has participated in reconciliation talks with the GNA, he has recently ordered his forces — the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) — to invade the seat of the internationally-recognized government, namely Tripoli. Armed forces loyal to the GNA have been fighting back. On Sunday, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) urged the warring sides to hold an urgent two-hour ceasefire for the southern outskirts of Tripoli to allow the evacuation of civilians and the wounded. Earlier in the week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern regarding the situation in Libya after his attempts to convince Haftar to halt his offensive failed. On Saturday, Haftar’s military spokesman, Col. Ahmad Almismari, said in a presser that LNA forces had captured four towns in the offensive toward the capital. The forces also announced on Sunday that they had conducted their first air raid on a Tripoli suburb, despite calls by the international community to halt hostilities. Meanwhile, the Libyan Health Ministry said that at least 21 people had been killed and 27 others wounded since the start of the LNA offensive, without specifying whether civilians had been among the casualties. A day earlier, the LNA had announced that 14 of its forces had been killed in the fighting. On Saturday, Sarraj warned of a “war without a winner” and announced that reinforcements were pouring into the capital from several regions to defend the city against Haftar’s forces. Haftar is “motivated by personal interests and his own delusions” and is trying to “plunge the country into a cycle of violence,” Sarraj said. Reports said that powerful armed groups from the western city of Misrata and fighters from Zentan and Zawiya — all battle-hardened militiamen who took part in a 2011 uprising in the country — had already joined the battle against the LNA. UN insists to hold national conference Meanwhile, Hassan Salame, a senior UN envoy, said in a press conference in Tripoli on Saturday that the world body was “determined” to hold a conference to explore the possibility of holding elections on time despite the current surge in fighting. The UN aims to hold the conference in the southwestern town of Ghadames on April 14-16 to weigh the possibility of elections as a way out of Libya’s factional anarchy. UAE, Saudis, Egypt back Haftar: Report On Saturday, Middle East Monitor quoted a senior Libyan general as saying that there are Emirati and Egyptian weapons being used by Haftar’s forces in the battle to capture the capital and oust the GNA. The general stressed that Saudi Arabia gave Haftar the green light for his attack and supplied him with money in order to take over Libya’s west. Libya has been the scene of increasing violence since 2011, when former dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled from power after an uprising and a NATO military intervention. His ouster created a huge power vacuum, leading to chaos and the emergence of numerous militant outfits, including the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group.

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