Libyan fighting continues as more coronavirus reported

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Two new coronavirus cases were confirmed in Libya, authorities said after the first was detected last week, with international aid agencies warning of a disaster if it spreads.

Skirmishing started on several fronts in a new escalation after months of suspected imports of weapons and foreign fighters in breach of an arms embargo. At the weekend one side said a senior commander was killed.

The latest cases were discovered in Tripoli and Misrata, the National Centre for Disease Control said, without giving further details. The first was a man who had recently returned to Libya from overseas.

The escalation in conflict began a year ago when the Libyan National Army (LNA) of eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar launched an assault on Tripoli, seat of the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

The LNA is supported by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia, while Turkey and allied Syrian fighters are backing the GNA.

Last week, the GNA mounted an offensive to drive the LNA back from Tripoli, with heavy fighting on fronts on the city outskirts and other parts of the northwest.

In Friday’s battles, focused on Tripoli southern suburbs and the area between the coastal cities Misrata and Sirte, dozens of fighters were reported killed on both sides.

Late on Saturday, an official LNA military source said General Salem Deriaq, head of operations on the Misrata front, was killed in a Turkish drone strike with his deputy and a soldier.

The World Health Organisation and other agencies warned fighting will make it harder to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and the UN called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.