Migrants are seen after being rescued by Libyan coast guard in Tripoli, recently. Reuters
Libya’s Government of National Accord has protested at what it said were “untruths” in UN envoy Ghassan Salame’s latest report on the conflict in the North African country.
Fayed Al Sarraj, head of the UN-recognised GNA which is based in Tripoli, summoned Salame on Wednesday “to deliver a protest note over untruths” in his report to the United Nations Security Council, it said.
Salame, in a video conference on Monday, raised the alarm over “the increasing frequency of attacks on Mitiga,” the Libyan capital’s only functioning airport.
“Several of these attacks have come perilously close to hitting civilian aircraft with passengers on board,” he said.
Salame urged “the authorities in Tripoli to cease using the airport for military purposes and for the attacking forces to halt immediately their targeting of it.”
Mitiga has closed several times over the past four months because of a battle for Tripoli between GNA forces and fighters of military strongman General Khalifa Haftar.
Nearly 1,100 people have been killed since Haftar launched the offensive against the capital on April 4, according to the World Health Organisation.
Libya’s rival forces have taken their battle for Tripoli to the skies as fighting stalls on the ground, alarming UN envoy Ghassan Salame who has stepped up calls for a truce.
More than 1,000 people have been killed since commander Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive on April 4 to take the capital, but there have been no major breakthroughs on the battlefield.
Fighters loyal to the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) have kept Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) at bay on the southern outskirts of the city.
“The inability of both one camp and the other to make military progress... is pushing them to rethink their military tactics,” said Khaled al-Montasser, a professor at Tripoli University.
Montasser said that the two sides were now targeting each other’s “rear bases, supply centres and troop concentrations”.
With the front lines largely static, both sides are resorting to strikes using warplanes and drones supplied by their foreign supporters to span the large distances between populated centres.
The LNA said it carried out strikes over the weekend on 10 targets, including a military academy in Misrata, some 200 kilometres east of the capital.
Five doctors were killed in the air raids, according to the GNA.
The raids came after air strikes Friday on Haftar’s strategic air base of Al-Jufra, 650 kilometres south of Tripoli. Its fall would severely degrade the LNA assault.
Salame has responded to the escalation with calls for a ceasefire on the Muslim religious holiday of Eid Al Adha which falls around Aug.10.
“The decision to stop the war cannot be postponed indefinitely. I therefore submit the following three-part” action plan, he said Monday in an address to the UN Security Council from Tripoli.
The UN envoy proposed that a ceasefire be accompanied by confidence-building measures such as an exchange of prisoners and the remains of fallen fighters.
“Second... I request a high-level meeting of concerned countries to cement the cessation of hostilities, work together to enforce strict implementation of the arms embargo,” which in theory has been in place since Libya’s 2011 revolt that toppled Muammer Gaddafi, he said.
The final step would be “a Libyan meeting of leading and influential personalities from all over the country to agree on comprehensive elements for the way forward.”
Salame stressed that “it should be abundantly clear to all that the risks of either an open-ended low-intensity conflict or a full escalation to outright war on the shores of the southern Mediterranean are equally unacceptable.”
The main obstacle, however, remained that “the parties still believe they can achieve their objectives through military means.”
The fighting since April has left nearly 1,100 people dead and wounded more than 5,750, according to the World Health Organisation.
More than 100,000 civilians have fled their homes.
Missiles on Monday hit Tripoli’s only functioning Mitiga airport which remained closed to air traffic, causing chaos and fear among passengers, witnesses said.