Tripoli bombardment intensifies


Bombardment of the Libyan capital Tripoli intensified residents said as the UN envoy called for a return to a ceasefire agreed last month and eastern forces said they shot down several drones.

Residents said shelling was among the heaviest since the ceasefire was agreed as artillery blasts echoed through the city centre and black smoke billowed near Mitiga airport held by the government.

Fighting between the Libyan National Army (LNA) of eastern-based leader Khalifa Haftar and the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, came as the UN attempted peace talks in Geneva.

Speaking in the Swiss city, UN special representative Ghassan Salame said the past 24 hours saw “a serious truce violation” and called for all sides to again respect the ceasefire.

Shelling of Mitiga airport, held by the GNA, forced suspension of flights for hours at a time on consecutive days last week and new damage to a hangar was visible after Friday’s bombardment.

The town council of Abu Salim, a Tripoli neighbourhood held by the GNA, posted pictures of damaged houses on Facebook, while medics evacuated patients from a hospital near the airport.

The bombing of civilian neighbourhoods of Tripoli “may amount to war crimes”, the UN Libya mission said in a statement.

The mission condemned an attack on Thursday it said killed five family members in an area held by the LNA, which attributed the blast to a drone strike.

The LNA is backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, while the GNA is supported by Turkey and allied fighters from Syria.

Haftar began his attack on Tripoli last year in the latest round of fighting in Libya since the 2011 toppling of strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

The LNA said it shot down at least six Turkish drones, showing images of tangled wreckage whose authenticity Reuters could not immediately verify.