11 April 2019

Libya: Fight for Tripoli Escalates as UN Prepares to Meet

Photo: Sufyan Ararah/UNHCR
As renewed fighting broke out in Tripoli, Libya, in early September, UNHCR’s local office provided assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers who escaped from detention centres as rockets exploded around the capital (file photo).

Fighting between rival Libyan governments for control of Tripoli worsened Wednesday as the United Nations Security Council gets ready to meet on the crisis.

General Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army has set up an administration in the east. His forces are battling troops belonging to Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj and his internationally recognized Libyan government in Tripoli in the west.

Fighting Wednesday centered in the suburbs south of the capital, with thousands of civilians fleeing their homes for safety.

Residents in the city report LNA warplanes were buzzing neighborhoods and firing at them.

Fighting was also reported at what had been the country's international airport.

Britain and Germany have called Thursday's Security Council meeting to discuss the fighting.

U.N. officials fear the violence in Libya could destabilize the entire Middle East by sending more refugees fleeing to Europe across the dangerous Mediterranean, disrupting oil production, and allowing terrorist groups such as Islamic State to take advantage of the chaos.

This would be on top of the humanitarian crisis that comes with a civil war.

The U.N. has received only a small fraction of the $202 million in aid it has asked for to help Libyans.

U.N.-sponsored peace talks aimed at planning a national election are scheduled for Sunday.

But an LNA official told the Associated Press there can be no peace in Libya because Tripoli has been "kidnapped" and the LNA must step in to "liberate" the capital.

A teacher who is looking to get out of the city says he doesn't care who emerges victorious, saying, "I just want to survive with my family."

Libya has been in political and economic chaos since longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown and killed in 2011.

VOA's Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.

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