Few leave after Benghazi ceasefire announced
The eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) has been besieging the district of Ganfouda for months as it tries to take full control of Benghazi following a military campaign against Islamists and other opponents lasting more than two years.
The fate of families cornered by the fighting has become a major point of contention, with the LNA saying non-combatants are able to leave safely but opponents accusing it of not providing adequate guarantees.
Human rights groups estimate that more than 100 families as well as an unknown number of foreign workers have been trapped for months without access to fresh food by the LNA siege. They also say the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council (BRSC), the LNA's main opponent, is detaining prisoners in the area.
Both sides have been accused of human rights abuses in the conflict.
READ MORENo respite for Libya after IS driven from Sirte
Armed groups mobilise and exchange fire in a tense Tripoli
Three children killed in Benghazi blast
The LNA announced a six-hour ceasefire on Saturday to allow for families to leave. But only seven women and children from two Libyan families, and three Bangladeshi workers, left during the assigned pause in fighting, according to the commander of a local LNA brigade, Wahid al-Zawi, and Red Crescent spokesman Toufik al-Shwaihdi.
Shwaihdi said the families had been evacuated by the brigade, received by the Red Crescent, and then handed over to relatives.
The United Nations has repeatedly called for civilians to be allowed to leave Ganfouda, and Libya's envoy to the United Nations, Martin Kobler, said late on Saturday he was "deeply worried" about their continued presence in the district after the "unilateral" LNA ceasefire.
"Reports of shells being fired and civilians being prevented from leaving are extremely concerning," he said in a statement.
More than five years after long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi was swept from power in an uprising, Libya remains mired in conflict with competing armed factions vying for power.
The LNA is led by Khalifa Haftar, who has become a figurehead for factions in eastern Libya. They have opposed a half-formed, U.N.-backed government in the capital, Tripoli.
The LNA has made a series of hard-won advances in Benghazi this year, but has been unable to take full control of the city and still faces frequent attacks on its forces.
Top stories this week
- SA defence budget shrinks again
- Nigerian student protestors demand South Africans leave
- South African police fire tear gas to disperse anti-immigrant protesters
- South Africa concludes defence industry MOU with UAE
- South Africa still intends to quit the ICC – Justice Minister
- Mapisa-Nqakula lists “a big scarf” and a miniature building among gifts she received
- Cops pounce on suspected poachers in Mpumalanga
- Concern over cuts in Reserve Force man days
- Defence budget up by three percent to R48.6 billion
- Southern African Shipyards using Vard design to meet SA Navy hydrographic requirement
Invitation to Saab's annual Gripen seminar
by Saab, 22 February 2017
The media, financial analysts and investors have been asked to attend the seminar in Stockholm, Sweden, on 15 March.
Saab launches CoastControl, next level of Coastal Security, at IDEX 2017
by Saab, 21 February 2017
CoastControl combines surveillance and communications products with a workflow management tool to help coastal security personnel stay ahead of any situation.
Saab to deliver CBRN equipment to INTERPOL
by Saab, 21 February 2017
The CBRN sampling equipment and a certified transport packaging container will be delivered to INTERPOL's BioTerrorism Prevention Unit.