Divisions appear over LNA Tripoli offensive

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At least four people died in heavy shelling in Tripoli, an official said as Europe and the Gulf were divided over a push to seize the city by eastern forces commander Khalifa Haftar.

Almost two weeks into the assault, the veteran general’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) is stuck in the southern outskirts battling armed groups loyal to the internationally recognised Tripoli government.

The southern district of Abu Salim was shelled on Tuesday with explosions heard in the city centre where life continued largely untouched by the violence.

The artillery barrage killed at least two and wounded eight, Osama Ali, spokesman for a Tripoli emergency body, told Reuters, without saying who was responsible. Another official told Libya’s Alahrar channel four were killed and 20 wounded.

The district is near the road to the old airport, which has changed hands several times since fighting started. Abu Salim is north of forces loyal to Tripoli seeking to stop the LNA troops.

Forces allied to Tripoli accuse the LNA of firing rockets into residential areas. LNA said in a statement it had nothing to with the shooting, accusing a Tripoli-based group.



As rockets fell, the UN Security Council was due to consider a British-drafted resolution demanding a ceasefire and calling on all countries with influence to ensure compliance.

Foreign powers are worried but unable to present a united front over the latest flare-up in the cycle of anarchy gripping Libya since dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011.

The conflict’s humanitarian toll is growing – 174 killed, 756 injured and almost 20,000 displaced, according to latest UN tallies – and sunk an international peace plan.

Qatar said an existing UN arms embargo on Libya should be strictly enforced, to prevent Haftar receiving arms.

Haftar has the backing of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, who view him as an anchor to restore stability and combat Islamist militants.

Those nations cut ties with Qatar in 2017, accusing it of support for militants and Iran.

Qatar Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told Italian daily La Repubblica a postponed UN peace forum should be rescheduled and Haftar’s army made to withdraw.

The arms embargo must be implemented “to prevent countries providing ammunitions and state-of-the-art weapons from continuing to do so,” he said.

UN reports say the UAE and Egypt supplied Haftar with arms and aircraft, giving him air superiority among Libya’s multiple factions. East Libyan authorities say Qatar and Turkey back rival, Islamist-leaning factions in western Libya.

UN MAY DEMAND CEASEFIRE

The Gulf diplomatic divisions echo Europe, where former colonial ruler Italy and France sparred over Libya.

Paris supported Haftar in the past, viewing him as best to end the chaos since a NATO-backed rebellion to end Gaddafi’s murderous four-decade rule.

Italy, with considerable oil interests in the OPEC member, supports the Tripoli government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj and was furious with French reluctance to back a recent European Union resolution urging Haftar to halt his advance.

Serraj has held the LNA at bay, thanks largely to assistance from armed groups from other western Libyan factions.

“The war ends with withdrawal of these (LNA) forces and return from where they came,” Serraj said in a statement on Tuesday.

Haftar presents himself as a champion against what he calls terrorism, opponents cast him as a would-be dictator like Gaddafi. About 70 people protested against him at the central Algiers Square in Tripoli.