Tripoli under fire

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A withering bombardment shook Tripoli on Sunday as eastern-based forces of Khalifa Haftar fought for new territory in the southern suburbs after losing ground around the city.

Adding to the misery of Tripoli residents, the main water supplier to north-west Libya said armed men stormed a facility, reducing supply.

“My father said we should be ready to leave at any moment the fighting last night was heavier than at any time before,” said a resident of Abu Salim district, near a front.

“We would leave to survive, but where can we go? We will be on the street. It’s hopeless,” the resident added.

Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) has been trying to capture Tripoli for 13 months while Turkish military aid for the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) helped it regain ground.

The LNA, backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia, last week announced a new air campaign, but bombardment since has been artillery.

Last month pro-GNA forces recaptured towns in the north-west from the LNA, re-establishing control between Tripoli and the Tunisian border.

They made two attempts to seize the LNA’s strategic al-Watiya air base, but were repelled and moved to the main LNA north0western stronghold Tarhouna.

An LNA military source said on Saturday fighting was the fiercest so far. Eastern forces briefly took some ground in Abu Salim.

Tripoli residents described the bombardment as the worst after weeks of fighting as the GNA attempts to end Haftar’s campaign to seize Tripoli and push his forces out of artillery range.

Mitiga, the only functioning airport in the Libyan capital, was targeted by rockets for a second day after shelling on Saturday destroyed fuel tanks and sprayed shrapnel across a passenger jet being readied for take-off.

The UN Libya mission condemned “indiscriminate attacks”, mostly attributable to pro-LNA forces. It said last month the LNA was responsible for 80% of civilian deaths in the first quarter of 2020.

Water pressure in Tripoli started to drop on Sunday after the Great Man-Made River Project, the main water utility, said a power station in the south was stormed by armed men.

Ahmed al-Deeb, head of its western region committee, said the men switched off electricity because of a shortage of cooking gas and a lack of cash in local banks and that tribal elders were negotiating with them to restore power.

The state-run National Oil Corporation was working to supply cooking gas from the country’s main Sharara oil field.