Haftar forces pushed back outside Tripoli

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Forces supporting Libya’s internationally recognised government pushed back troops loyal to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar more than 60 km south-west of Tripoli.

Aziziya town was fully under control of the Tripoli forces with shops reopening after days of fighting, a Reuters team at the scene said.

Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), allied to a rival government in eastern Libya, mounted an offensive on Tripoli three weeks ago but despite heavy fighting last week failed to breach the city’s southern defences.

In recent days, forces backing the Tripoli administration pushed back the LNA in some areas.

Fighting still raged in some southern suburbs, with shelling throughout the day even in central Tripoli, residents said.

The Reuters team driving south of Aziziya through villages en route to Hira saw several burnt-out cars belonging to Haftar’s forces and five dead fighters.

The Reuters reporters made it to 25 km from Gharyan, the forward base for Haftar’s offensive . The town could still be a challenge to recapture as it lies in the mountains behind Hira.

An LNA prisoner sat on the back of a pick-up truck. The Tripoli forces seized two Soviet-made tanks from the arsenal of former ruler Muammar Gaddafi, one heavily damaged.

As the Reuters team was about to leave, rockets were fired from LNA positions.

According to UN figures, 264 people, including 21 civilians, died in fighting since April 5 and 1,266 were wounded, including 69 civilians. About 32,000 civilians fled to safer areas.

The latest military action is a setback to Haftar’s plans to install himself as ruler of the country and could ease a situation dividing and confounding foreign governments with an interest in Libya.

The front remains fluid and fortunes could change. Both sides gained and lost territory in days or even hours.

If a ceasefire is called as demanded by the United Nations, the LNA would still gain a considerable amount of territory.

Libya is the major departure point for African migrants trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean, a big concern for European Union nations.

There have been reports of migrants in a detention facility in Qasr Ben Ghashir district, which has been fought over since the start of the offensive, seriously wounded in random shooting, the UN migration agency said. It gave no more details.

Some 3,600 migrants are still in detention centres near the frontline, the United Nations said in a statement.

“The situation in detention centres is increasingly desperate, with reports of guards abandoning their posts and leaving people trapped,” the world body said. “One facility – Gharyan – has reportedly been without drinking water for days.”