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News, April 2019
Thousands of Libyans Demonstrate in Tripoli and Misrata Against War, Hafter and Hafter's Foreign Allies
April 13, 2019
Thousands demonstrate in Tripoli and Misrata against war, Hafter and Hafter’s foreign allies
By Sami Zaptia.
Libya Herald, London, 13 April 2019:
Thousands of Libyans came out to demonstrate in Tripoli and Misrata yesterday afternoon against the war on Tripoli waged by Khalifa Hafter, his Libyan National Army (LNA) and their allied forces.
The demonstrations formed of people from all ages and walks of life objected to the war and Hafter himself, calling for a civilian state and objecting to possible military rule. The demonstration was sanctioned by the Serraj Ministry of Interior since all demonstrations need prior state approval.
There were a variety of placards not only denouncing Hafter but also his French, UAE and Saudi backers. At the Misrata demonstration a French flag was burnt.
The demonstration took place as the capital sought to unit and show solidarity sending Hafter a message that war on Tripoli was not the solution.
Meanwhile sporadic and cat-and-mouse fighting continued in the outskirts of Tripoli, mainly parts of Swani, Ain Zara and Wadi Rabea with both sides claiming unverified advances in the front. There are also unverified reports of air raids by both parties.
It is also notable that the Faiez Serraj official military spokesperson has failed to continue to provide a daily update of the battle through his press conferences, leaving an information vacuum and leaving the reporting to the unofficial ‘‘Wadi Doum 2’’, Volcano of Rage (Anger) and the Tripoli Protection Force militia Facebook pages to fill the void.
On the other hand, The LNA spokesperson Ahmed Mesmari and the LNA’s War Information Division have continued to provide their side’s updates too, but again verification of their claims has been difficult to achieve.
The Pro-Hafter and eastern-based Military Attorney General issued arrest warrants for 23 western based people, 9 civilian and 14 military/militia leaders, for ”supporting terrorism”. The civilians included all the Presidency Council members led by Serraj and Ahmed Maetig with the addition of former High State Council head Abdelrahman Swehli and Tripoli Central Bank of Libya Governor Saddek El-Kaber.
Meanwhile, on the humanitarian front, the World Health Organization reported on Thursday that as clashes around Tripoli continued and the number of wounded rose to the hundreds, it reacted swiftly to provide field hospitals and ambulances with critically-needed life-saving supplies.
WHO reported that heavy shelling and gunfire over the past 6 days has wounded 266 people and killed 56, including an ambulance driver and 2 medical doctors. Thousands of people have fled their homes, while others are trapped in conflict areas. Hospitals inside and outside the city are receiving daily casualties.
It complained that the work of ambulance and hospital teams is being hampered by continuous shelling and armed clashes, including around heavily populated residential areas. Emergency teams face fuel shortages and migrants, who have been moved from detention centres, may not be receiving the medical care they need.
“We have sent emergency medical teams to help frontline hospitals cope with caseloads and to support surgical staff in collaboration with the Ministry of Health,” said Dr Syed Jaffar Hussain, WHO Representative in Libya.
“We also plan to deploy additional emergency teams and supplies to support first-line responders and have activated 3 sets of contingency stocks, which were pre-positioned in strategic sites before the fighting began,” he added.
Indiscriminate shelling, civilian casualties, attacks on ambulances, electricity cuts and stranded civilians as a result of Tripoli fighting
By Sami Zaptia.
Libya Herald, London, 12 April 2019:
Protection concerns for civilians remain paramount with reports of indiscriminate shelling on densely populated areas in Ain Zara and Swani in the southern outskirts of Tripoli yesterday, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its latest report released yesterday.
As the fluid fighting continues with shifting frontlines in a cat-and-mouse fashion, frontlines in the main have remained constant as neither side has been able to make any deep incursions. The report confirms fighting in the Tripoli Airport, Qaser Ben Ghashir, Swani, Ain Zara and Wadi Rabea areas.
The OCHA report revealed that the Health Sector has verified reports of seven civilian fatalities and ten civilian injuries since the onset of fighting in and around Tripoli. This number includes the deaths of three medical staff and the injury of one health worker.
Additionally, five attacks on ambulances have been verified, including reports of two ambulances belonging to field hospitals which were hit by the shrapnel. Furthermore, the electricity supply to some fourteen areas south of Tripoli, including Al Furjan and Wadi Al-Rabea, has been affected after some poles and electricity lines were damaged in the fighting.
The security of civilians stuck in conflict-affected areas, particularly in the outskirts of Tripoli, remains precarious. Local teams responsible for the evacuation of civilians continue to receive requests for the relocation of families to comparatively safer areas. At the time of writing this report, some 761 requests for the relocation of around 3,800 individuals had been received by evacuation teams.
the report says that to date, its teams were only able to respond to some 111 requests, 43 of whom were evacuations from Swani which saw a dramatic upsurge in violence on 11 April.
Evacuation teams continue to report access restrictions due to armed conflict, and indiscriminate or even direct targeting of the first response teams. On 11 April, one ambulance in Ain Zara came under gunfire on its way to evacuate an injured person, and the planned evacuation subsequently had to be aborted.
The Humanitarian Coordinator has reminded all parties to the conflict that under international humanitarian law, medical facilities, medical personnel and medical transport must be respected and protected at all times, and that attacks targeting them are prohibited.
The United Nations further reiterates its call for a temporary humanitarian truce to allow for the provision of emergency services and the voluntary passage of civilians, including those wounded, from areas of conflict.
Since the onset of armed conflict, the report says, at least 9,500 individuals were forced to leave their homes. This includes the displacement movement of some 3,500 additional individuals in the last 24 hours. While displacement numbers had been significantly but steadily increasing over the past couple of days at a rate of 33 per cent, today’s displacement numbers represent a 60 per cent increase in comparison to the previous day.
Key IDP reception areas include Tripoli, Tajoura and Ain Zara, accounting for just under half of the IDP influx, while smaller numbers of IDPs have also displaced to Al Zahra, Al Maya, Zintan, Tajoura, Swani, Al Khums, Garabolli, Bani Waleed, and other areas.
Families who displaced to areas that are now gradually moving in the vicinity of frontlines are at risk of onward displacement, and on 11 April, some 167 individuals already had to evacuate the Al-Asma school in Ain Zara, and were relocated to another school that is currently serving as a collective shelter in a comparatively safer area.
Many migrants and refugees in detention centres in and around Tripoli are also at particular risk to become affected by armed conflict. Through the provision of transportation, IOM and UNHCR provided an opportunity for refugees and migrants in the Qasir Ben Ghashir detention centre to relocate to the Zintan detention centre, which is located in a safer area.
The report says that UN staff were not present given ongoing clashes in the area. Despite counselling on safety considerations, the 728 individuals, of whom 320 persons of concern are registered with UNHCR, currently residing in the detention centre opted to remain in the facility. Previously, on 9 April, UNHCR successfully relocated more than 150 refugees from the Ain Zara detention centre in southern Tripoli to UNHCR’s Gathering and Departure Facility.
Heavy armed clashes and artillery shelling on some Tripoli residential areas concerns UN
By Sami Zaptia.
Libya Herald, London, 11 April 2019:
Heavy armed clashes and artillery shelling on residential areas in Ain Zara and Khallat al-Forjan have translated into an upsurge in displacement numbers in and around Tripoli, which doubled over the past 48 hours to just over 6,000 individuals, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in its latest report yesterday.
It added that if violence were to continue and fighting were to reach the more populated areas of Tripoli city, further large-scale displacement has to be expected. There are concerns for the protection of civilians and first responders amidst reports of the deaths of at least three medical staff.
Due to ongoing conflict, access restrictions and indiscriminate targeting of first responders, only 58 out of 580 families who registered for evacuations from areas particularly affected by hostilities could be brought to comparatively safer places to date.
The United Nations continues to call for a temporary humanitarian truce to allow for the provision of emergency services and the voluntary passage of civilians away from areas of conflict.
The report said that about a week into the eruption of clashes in Tripoli, local teams responsible for the evacuation of civilians from conflict-affected areas have received requests for the relocation of some 580 families (around 2,900 individuals) to comparatively safer areas. However, due to access restrictions, hostilities and indiscriminate targeting of first responders, the teams have only been able to respond to 10 per cent of all requests, evacuating just 58 families.
Most cases of civilians trapped in proximity to the fighting have been recorded in areas in the south-western and eastern outskirts of Tripoli (such as Wadi Alrabee, Al-Ahyaa Al-Beria, Aziza and Souq al-Khamis) and greater Tripoli (the ElKeheli neighborhood of Ain Zara). Families who remain stranded inside conflict-affected areas report to not only fear for their safety, but also to slowly run out of fuel and food.
The report added that emergency service providers are conducting life-saving interventions amidst ongoing hostilities at great personal risk, with reports of three doctors having been killed, four first responders having been injured, and one ambulance driver having been kidnapped. Members of the evacuation teams have issued an urgent call for a provision of bullet-proof vests and helmets to protect their staff from harm whilst on duty.
The report informs that key IDP reception areas are located in the neighbourhoods of Tripoli, Tajoura, Ain Zahra and Al Maya, while fewer families are settling in Swani, Janzour, Tarhuna and Bani Waleed, amidst others.
It explains that most IDPs continue to settle with family members and acquaintances. At least twelve collective shelters have been set up across various areas of Tripoli. The four main municipalities in central Tripoli are currently working to identify four additional spaces for collective shelters, as they anticipate that the shelters in northern Ain Zara and Tajoura will soon need to be evacuated due to shifting frontlines.
Field hospitals in conflict-affected areas report a dire need of medical staff on the ground, with reports emerging that many medical facilities are only staffed by one doctor, on 24-hour shifts, at a time when the medical caseload is rapidly increasing. Medical supplies are running low, and urgently need to be replenished.
The report says that the United Nations continues to call for a temporary humanitarian truce to allow for the provision of emergency services and the voluntary passage of civilians, including those wounded, from areas of conflict.
Eastern Libyan Army Reaches Tripoli Outskirts in a Bid to Contro the Western Capital, 21 Killed in Initial Reports
April 7, 2019
Libya: Fighting flares on Tripoli outskirts, 21 dead
On Thursday, Haftar launched military campaign to recapture Tripoli from the GNA forces
Fierce clashes erupted Sunday between East Libya-based forces and government troops on the outskirts of the Libyan capital Tripoli.
Gunfire was heard in southern and central Tripoli between forces led by commander Khalifa Haftar -- who reportedly seeks to wrest control of the capital-- and forces loyal to the UN-backed Government on National Accord (GNA), according to an Anadolu Agency correspondent.
At least 21 people were killed and 27 others were wounded in armed clashes in Libya’s capital, according to the Health Ministry under GNA.
Health Ministry spokesperson Amin Al-Hashemi told Anadolu Agency that civilians were among the casualties.
Local media outlets reported clashes as well in the vicinity of the old Tripoli International Airport, which has been seized by Haftar forces.
On Thursday, Haftar launched a military campaign to recapture Tripoli from the GNA forces.
Libya has remained beset by turmoil since 2011, when a NATO-backed uprising led to the ouster and death of President Muammar Gaddafi after four decades in power.
Since then, the country’s stark political divisions have yielded two rival seats of power: one in the eastern city of Al-Bayda, to which Haftar is linked, and another in Tripoli.
The New Arab & agencies, 7 April, 2019
General Khalifa Haftar's forces have announced their first airstrike on a suburb of Libya's capital as government forces rush to launch a counteroffensive to defend Tripoli.
Forces loyal to rogue Libyan militia leader Khalifa Haftar on Sunday announced their first airstrike on a suburb of Tripoli, where troops loyal to the country's internationally-recognised government had announced a "counter offensive" to protect the loyalist stronghold.
The announcement of the air raid was made on the Facebook page of the "media office" of Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) as fighting raged around 50 kilometres (31 miles) south of Tripoli. An air strike on the southern part of Tripoli was confirmed by a witness who spoke to Reuters.
Forces loyal to Haftar have pressed on with their assault since Thursday despite international calls to halt hostilities.
In the capital, the spokesman for forces loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), Colonel Mohamed Gnounou, said that counteroffensive "Volcano of Anger" was aimed at "purging all Libyan cities of aggressor and illegitimate forces".
The UN has called for an "urgent" two-hour truce in the southern suburbs of Tripoli to evacuate wounded and civilians amid the escalating violence.
Libya has struggled to counter unrest since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, leaving dozens of militia to fill the void and ally with either the GNA or a rival administration in the east backed by Haftar.
GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj on Saturday accused Haftar of betraying him and warned of a "war without a winner".
Hafter advance towards Tripoli repulsed as ‘Wadi Doum 2’ operation launched by Western Region Forces
By Sami Zaptia.
Libya Herald, London, 5 April 2019:
The Khalifa Hafter Libyan National Army (LNA) and its regional allies seemed to have ben repulsed overnight in their thrust towards Tripoli. The newly-formed Western Region coalition of anti-Hafter forces launched the ‘‘Wadi (Ouadi) Doum 2’’ operation to counter Hafter’s attack on Tripoli.
Wadi Doum is a military airstrip build by Qaddafi in northern Chad where Hafter was defeated and captured by Chadian government forces fighting for the Qaddafi regime in 1986. Ironically, Hafter’s defeat and capture in 1987 was facilitated by French support for the Chad government at the time.
Yesterday, pro Hafter media circulated video footage purporting to show pro-LNA forces capturing the strategic KM 27 checkpoint on the main coastal road between Tripoli and Zawia. Later last night, anti Hafter forces displayed footage purporting to show that KM 27 checkpoint was back in their hands.
Moreover, reports, photographs and video footage widely circulated purporting to show a large number of pro-Hafter troops under arrest by the anti-Hafter forces. These are put at around 150 held in Zawia.
It was claimed they surrendered without putting up any fight. They also claimed to have captured the surrendering forces’ armour and vehicles. Faiez Serraj was also photographed by a fellow journalist today meeting troops at the KM 27 checkpoint, and the Tripoli-Zawia coastal road was reported to be normal this morning. There were brief clashes between the two forces reported in the Hira area at the foot of the Western Nefusa mountains yesterday. There are conflicting reports as to who controls the Witya airbase, near the Tunisian border and 75 km south of Zuwara.
More importantly, there were numerous reports and photos and video footage of of Misratan forces allegedly preparing to set off to Tripoli. There are still no confirmed reports this morning of their arrival in central Tripoli.
Petrol and diesel queues continue in Tripoli. In fairness, these started a few days prior to Hafter’s arrival at Gharian, but Hafter’s arrival has been the only topic of debate in Tripoli for weeks. Some would say for months and at least a couple of years. The NOC’s Brega has assured that there are plenty of fuel supplies. One black-market currency dealer reported to Libya Herald that the dinar spiked to 4.90 to the dollar briefly yesterday.
A quick unscientific poll of people in Tripoli by Libya Herald this morning is as split and polarized as the British Brexit debate. Half want Hafter while the other half absolutely detest him. Tripoli is calm with many residents carrying on as normal today – as they had done all of yesterday.
On the international stage, following the earlier statements by the EU and the UN yesterday, a Joint Statement on the Fighting Near Gharian was released by the Governments of France, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States was released late last night.
It said that ‘‘The governments of France, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States are deeply concerned by fighting near Gharyan, Libya and urge all parties to immediately de-escalate tensions, which are hindering prospects for UN political mediation. At this sensitive moment in Libya’s transition, military posturing and threats of unilateral action only risk propelling Libya back toward chaos. We strongly believe that there is no military solution to the Libya conflict. Our governments oppose any military action in Libya and will hold accountable any Libyan faction that precipitates further civil conflict.
We stand united behind UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) Ghassan Salamé as the UN seeks to break Libya’s political deadlock, improve transitional governance, and chart a path toward credible and peaceful elections. All Libyan actors should work constructively with SRSG Salamé as the UN finalizes plans for the national conference planned for April 14-16’’.
Meanwhile, the UK has called for a closed emergency UN Security Council session on Libya to be held today.
Serraj announces state of alert in response to Hafter’s LNA provocation – international community urges de-escalation
Libya Herald, By Sami Zaptia.
London, 4 April 2019:
Faiez Serraj, head of the Presidency Council and Government of National Accord, in his role as Supreme Commander of the Tripoli-based Libyan National Army, announced a state of alert yesterday in response to the encroaching Libyan National Army (LNA) forces and threats to enter Tripoli militarily.
Serraj, never mentions Hafter nor the LNA by name in his statement, but the message is clearly directed at them. He condemned the ‘‘provocative’’ and ‘‘escalating’’ language and statements made by Hafter and his LNA ‘‘to purge the western region’’ and to ‘‘liberate’’ Tripoli which he said did not help accord or reconciliation.
He said such language destroys Libyans’ hope for stability and, in a veiled threat, ‘‘underestimates’’ all other parties.
Serraj said that this escalation comes a few days before the UN-brokered National Conference (@multaqa.libya) set to be held in Ghadames from 14 to 16 April. He added that Libyans view the conference with a glimmer of hope and as an exit out of Libya’s current crisis, an opportunity to unify the country’s split institutions and as the means to elections. However, the LNA’s inflammatory and escalating statements will undermine all of this, Serraj added.
Serraj warned that he had in the past chosen to exercise restraint to such intended crisis-precipitating actions, but that in the face of such persistence to follow this aggressive policy that he thought had been long bypassed, he has ordered and announced a state of alert to all military and security forces to prepare to respond and deter any threats aimed at destabilizing security in any area of the country. This destabilizing threat could be terror or criminal organizations, rogue groups outside the law, mercenaries, or anyone who threatens any Libyan city.
In conclusion, Serraj repeated the oft quoted mantra that there is ‘‘no military solution’’ to the Libyan crisis. He added that ‘‘war only brings destruction to the country and suffering to the people’’, urging Hafter and the LNA to ‘‘stop the language of threats and menace and to take on the language of reason and wisdom’’.
It will be recalled that the Serraj state of alert announcement comes after a clear and deliberate ratcheting up by the Hafter LNA and their regional allies spanning from Sabrata to Gharian. In fact, critics and analysts would say that Hafter has been on a military campaign for months if not years. His manoeuvres in the south of Libya in February and March are seen as preparations for a military ‘‘liberation’’ of Tripoli – an aim Hafter has never made a secret of.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was yesterday’s announcement by the LNA’s General Command issuing orders to move to the western region which the announcement said was ‘‘controlled by outlaw groups and militias’’. The announcement was accompanied by footage claiming to show heavily armed forces crossing the Brega area and the central Oil Crescent area and allegedly moving towards the west of the country.
The statement said that the ‘‘operation aims to cleanse the country, which remains with terrorist and criminal group found in its hideouts in the western region’’ It added that the Libyan armed forces are aware of the safety of citizens and public property in the country.
On the other hand, Tripoli’s and the Western Region Forces have not sat idle. On 31 March the Tripoli Protection Force (TPF), a coalition of Tripoli’s main militias aligned to the Serraj Presidency Council, had announced on 31 March the unification of the Tripoli and Western Region Forces. Video footage of its forces allegedly heading towards the south of Tripoli have also been circulating.
The Faiez Serraj Ministry of Interior (MoI) had also announced the readiness of its forces to protect the areas under its control. Today it also announced a state of alert and warned its employees not to take orders from any forces outside the authority of the Presidency Council.
Political manoeuvres ahead of Ghadames National Conference
As Faiez Serraj suggested in his state of alert declaration, these military manoeuvres by Hafter and his LNA and aligned forces in north western Libya come days before the 14 April Ghadames National Conference kicks off.
The military manoeuvres suggest they are a political dance and jostling by all the status quo parties ahead of any redivision of the power cake at Ghadames. It is partly fear of loss of a strong position or even annihilation and part the laying down of a marker. None of the parties want to enter the Ghadames conference and come out worse off. There is no doubt a fear of a loss of power if elections are indeed agreed as it would throw the power chips up in the air with an unknown outcome.
From the point of view Hafter, the LNA and his allies, there is the need to posture and project a position of power and strength on the ground. Hafter has been on this campaign for months if not years. His south of Libya military campaign has been a well-orchestrated manoeuvre to position himself favourably for elections or Ghassan Salame’s National Conference which has been long announced as part of his Libya Action Plan. Hafter has often proclaimed that he controls 90 percent of Libya’s territory. He hopes this is reflected in his slice of the power cake in Ghadames.
International reaction – calls for restraint
All this has come to a head at the exact time that the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, arrived in Tripoli yesterday.
In a tweet on his official Twitter account, announcing his arrival in Tripoli yesterday, Guterres expressed his full commitment to supporting the Libyan-led political process which would lead to peace, stability, democracy and prosperity for the Libyan people. “The United Nations aims to stabilize Libya and unite ranks of its army, governments and any other” he said.
In a tweet from Tripoli this morning, the military escalation meant that Guterres had to change his tone. He expressed his deep concern over the military movements taking place in Libya and the risk of confrontation. “There is no military solution. Only intra-Libyan dialogue can solve Libyan problems. I call for calm and restraint as I prepare to meet the Libyan leaders in the country, ” he said.
The British outgoing ambassador Frank Baker tweeted that he was ‘‘Deeply concerned by military movements in Libya and risk of rhetoric leading to miscalculation. Urge all parties to show restraint. Focus should now be on upcoming National Conference as best chance to achieve a better future for all Libyan’’
The US Embassy posted that it ‘‘Libya strongly condemns the increase in violence in Libya and reiterates the UN’s call for restraint’’.
The EU in a fuller statement said that it was ‘‘deeply concerned by the military build-up underway in Libya and the escalatory rhetoric which seriously risks leading to an uncontrollable confrontation. We urge all parties to immediately de-escalate tensions and cease all acts of provocation. There can be no military solution to the Libyan crisis.
The Libyan people deserve to live in peace and security. The current situation requires decision makers to act responsibly and finally put the national interest first.
The EU fully supports the mediating efforts of UN SRSG Ghassan Salame including the meetings recently held in Abu Dhabi. The upcoming National Conference scheduled in a few days offers an historic opportunity for all segments of Libyan society to agree on the political roadmap that will end the transition. We urge all parties to seize the opportunity of the visit of UN Secretary General António Guterres to engage in a spirit of compromise in order to avoid further bloodshed and build a better future for all Libyans”, it concluded.
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