October 21, 2020

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Libya says at least 4 killed in rocket attacks on capital

Libya’s Government of National Accord said Sunday at least four civilians, including a child, were killed as rockets rained down on the capital Tripoli and damaged its only working airport.

The UN-recognised GNA blamed Saturday’s attacks on eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar, who has been waging a campaign to take control of the capital since April last year.

“The forces of war criminal (Haftar) fired more than a hundred rockets and missiles at residential areas in the centre of the capital,” it said in a statement on Facebook.

At least four civilians, including a five-year-old girl, were killed and 16 others wounded in the working-class districts of Abu Slim and Ben Gashir, south of the city, the GNA’s health ministry spokesman Amin al-Hashemi said.

Dozens of rockets also targeted Mitiga airport, hitting a civilian aircraft lined up to repatriate Libyans stuck abroad due to the coronavirus pandemic, the GNA statement added.

The airport was badly damaged and came under renewed rocket fire on Sunday morning.

An airport source said the passenger halls and two civilian planes sustained serious damage.

Images of an aircraft with its fuselage ripped open and of a badly damaged runway and airport buildings were posted on social media.

Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) said Saturday that rockets and missiles hit a fuel depot at the airport, destroying four tanks and damaging six others.

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) called the bombardment “an all too familiar but frightening spectacle”.

“These horrifying attacks occur on a regular basis in close proximity to civilian neighbourhoods,” UNSMIL said on Twitter.

It called the shelling “one in a series of indiscriminate attacks, most of which are attributable to pro-LNA (Haftar) forces, killing more than 15 and injuring 50 civilians since 1 May”.

– ‘Weakness and desperation’ –

Since Wednesday, 17 civilians and two police officers have been killed and more than 66 other civilians wounded in rocket fire targeting several areas of the capital, according to the GNA.

UNSMIL slammed the attacks hitting civilians and civilian infrastructure and called for “those responsible for crimes under international law to be brought to justice”.

But the GNA said international condemnation was not enough.

“We no longer pay any attention to the timid condemnations of the international community, incapable as it is of naming” Haftar, holding him to account or stopping those supporting him, the GNA said.

“The senseless acts… of the past days… are proof of his weakness and desperation after the successive defeats of his militias and mercenaries,” it added.

Haftar’s forces have suffered several setbacks in recent weeks, with GNA fighters ousting them from two key coastal cities west of Tripoli in April.

Backed by Turkey, GNA troops now surround the LNA’s main rear base at Tarhuna, 80 kilometres (50 miles) southeast of the capital.

Foreign military involvement in Libya has exacerbated the conflict, with the United Arab Emirates and Russia backing Haftar and Ankara supplying the GNA.

World leaders at a Berlin meeting in January committed to ending foreign meddling and to upholding a 2011 weapons embargo, but the UN has warned that both sides have continued to receive arms and fighters.

© 2020 AFP