Libyan National Army Attacks Raise Threat of Renewed Civil War
The Libyan National Army (LNA), led by General Khalifa Haftar, struck Tripoli’s last remaining civilian airport on Apr. 8 amidst calls for a truce from international actors. Libya’s United Nations-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) immediately called the attack a war crime; Libya’s special representative to the UN, Ghassan Salame, said the attack was a “serious violation of international humanitarian law,” which prohibits attacks against civilian infrastructure.
Four days before the attack on Mitiga Airport, Haftar’s forces made an advance on Tripoli’s outskirts in an effort to take over one of the two most important Libyan cities—the other being Benghazi. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, via Twitter, urged “the immediate halt of all military operations in order to de-escalate the situation and prevent an all-out conflict.” The LNA, however, appears unwilling to seek alternatives to taking over the capital through militaristic means.
After the airstrike, all flights were suspended and all passengers were evacuated, and at least 2,800 people have fled fighting around Tripoli. Civilians who remain in Tripoli run the risk of being cut off from vital services. Tripoli International airport has been another site of fighting in the past few days—Haftar’s forces briefly had control over the airport until the GNA regained the area. A GNA official said that the “Haftar forces attacked Tripoli...mainly from the south and got as far as controlling Tripoli international airport. As of Monday, Haftar forces have been pushed back and Tripoli secured.”
Fighting near Tripoli has resulted in at least 21 casualties and 27 injuries, and caused the US military to pull its forces out of the country. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated on Sunday, “We have made it clear that we oppose the military offensive by Khalifa Haftar’s forces and urge the immediate halt to these military operations against the Libyan capital.”
The fighting within Libya has also contributed to oil prices reaching a five-month high, and is threatening to disrupt oil production. According to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, the violence has left refugees and migrants in detention centers at particularly high risk, and fighting has trapped many civilians and damaged electricity lines.