Warring sides in Libya claim progress as clashes intensify south of Tripoli
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Warring sides in Libya claim progress as clashes intensify south of Tripoli

The country has been divided between two rival governments, the House of Representatives, based in the eastern city of Tobruk, and the internationally-recognized government of Fayez al-Serraj, or the Tripoli-based unity Government of National Accord (GNA). Haftar, who is presumably loyal to the government in the east, commenced his deadly campaign on April 4 to invade and conquer Tripoli, the seat of the GNA, resulting in repeated fierce clashes on the southern edges of the capital. Haftar’s offensive has already been met with reproach from Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, and the UN Security Council (UNSC). “We have launched a new phase of attack. Orders were given early this morning to advance and gain ground,” said Mustafa al-Mejii, a GNA spokesman, on Saturday. Reports said sounds of rocket and shell fire could be heard in a number of neighborhoods of Tripoli since morning, after several days of less intense fighting on the ground. Both sides claim progress in southern parts of the capital. At least seven airstrikes were conducted by GNA forces against military positions held by Haftar’s forces, said GNA's military spokesman Colonel Mohammad Gnounou. He added that the strikes hit positions south of Gharian, 100 kilometers southwest of Tripoli, and also an airbase at al-Wotya, 50 kilometers further southwest. The LNA, for its part, claimed that its forces were “taking control of several new positions on the frontlines in Tripoli.” It added that its fighters had made GNA forces retreat “on all fronts.” A 75-year-old self-styled general, Haftar enjoys the loyalty of a group of armed militia, collectively known as the LNA, and backing from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt. Armed forces and militia loyal to the GNA have been fighting back. The spike in clashes came after the White House on Friday said that US President Donald Trump had personally discussed the situation in Tripoli with Haftar on the phone earlier this week. The disclosure of the call also prompted thousands of people in Tripoli to hold a protest against the US president. On Thursday, the UN envoy for Libya Ghassan Salame warned of “a widening conflagration” in the country. He also referred to “countries that have invested in Mr. Haftar as a champion of the fight against terrorism,” without naming them.  UN divided on Libya crisis On Wednesday, the UNSC was divided on how to defuse the crisis after fresh talks on a draft resolution demanding a truce in Tripoli failed to yield an agreement. During the Council’s session, Germany, which holds its presidency, proposed the draft resolution but Russia and South Africa opposed it, arguing that Haftar’s offensive is unlikely to produce a humanitarian crisis. On Thursday, Russia and the US opposed a British bid backed by France and Germany at the Council to demand a truce in Libya. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the fighting has so far killed at least 220 people and wounded more than 1,000 others. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) also reported that more than 25,000 people have been displaced by the clashes.

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