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Civil War Endangers Libya

Libya is in a state of low-level civil war. The World Health Organization has reported that more than 120 people have been killed and another 561 wounded in recent fighting.

 

The former army chief Khalifa Haftar has led an assault against Libya’s capital, Tripoli, with his Libyan National Army. Haftar has power and control over eastern Libya’s resources. He has started an offensive into western Libya on April 4 with the intention of gaining control of Tripoli.

 

Hiftar has launched an airstrike against the weak U.N.-backed Government of National Accord, aiming for Mitiga, Tripoli’s only civilian airport. This has severely limited the ability of civilians to travel in and out of the country.  The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that more than 13,500 civilians have been displaced, and many still are stuck in areas with heightened violence. The U.N. mission to Libya has called the attack “a serious violation of international humanitarian law.”

 

Armed forces loyal to the government have been able to keep Hiftar’s army at bay. In one raid, an elementary school was bombed. A Haftar official claimed that their side was targeting a government army camp. The U.N. mission to Libya and the government have failed to expel armed forces from the capital.

 

Haftar has vowed to unify the nation after the chaotic overthrow of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, which the Obama administration initiated with little follow-up and reconstruction of the country. Haftar has led multiple campaigns against Islamic militants and other opponents in east Libya. He has received support from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Russia and France.

 

The United States and the United Nations have both encouraged the political process, instead of the current military clash, as a peaceful solution to the country’s messy situation. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has stated: “We have made 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 Libyan people must be hoping for the conflict to end soon.

 

Sagarika Pal

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