Libya: Tripoli sustains massive rocket attack; planes ablaze | News

Bombings at Tripoli airport hit damaged fuel tanks and airplanes after forces loyal to Libya's renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar fired dozens of rockets at Tripoli.

Six people were killed and dozens more injured in the attacks, the Interior Ministry said in a statement, that included up to 80 rocket attacks.

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The Transport Ministry said one of the damaged planes was preparing to fly to Spain to recover Libyans trapped in Europe for blocking the coronavirus.

The video shared by an airport official showed black smoke rising from the apron. The photographs showed damage by shrapnel sprayed on the nose of a passenger plane.

The attack on Saturday was the most recent to hit Mitiga International Airport, in Libya's capital, home to the country's government, internationally recognized as the National Accord Government (GNA). Haftar forces in the east have been trying to apprehend Tripoli since April last year.

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Mahmoud Abdelwahed of Al Jazeera, reporting in Tripoli, said that clouds of black smoke were seen rising through the airport.

The damage was visible in several areas of Tripoli, including Hotel Rixos, Nasser Forest and Bab Ben Ghashir district after the bombing. The area was cleared of civilians by GNA forces to ensure the safety of the population, officials said.

Saturday's attacks came hours after the UN Support Mission in Libya condemned the indiscriminate attacks against civilians in Tripoli, saying "they could be war crimes".

The airport was repeatedly attacked by the Libyan National Army (LNA) of Haftar, which in April last year launched an operation to capture Tripoli from the GNA. Civilian flights stopped in March because of frequent bombings before the country even imposed a blockade on the coronavirus pandemic.

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"Haftar's forces say there is a drone launcher at that airport … Turkish drones to target the locations of Haftar forces in the south and many other locations," said Abdelwahed.

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According to the United Nations, four-fifths of the 130 civilian casualties registered in the Libyan conflict in the first quarter of the year were caused by ground fighting by the LNA.

The fight intensifies

On Thursday night, Turkey and Italy said the area around their embassies in Tripoli was bombed, prompting the European Union to condemn the incident, considered "attributed to Haftar's forces".

Ahmed al-Mismari, an LNA spokesman, denied that the LNA had invaded the area. He has yet to comment on Saturday's bombing in Mitiga.

Turkey supports the GNA and has signed a military cooperation agreement with it to help fight the Haftar LNA, supported by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and other countries.

The attack came days after at least five civilians were killed in bombings attributed to the LNA and after the launch of a Operation by the GNA to seize the key al-Watiya air base, southwest of Tripoli, from the forces of Haftar.

Tripoli: Reports of civilian plane hit at Mitiga airport (4:10)

Setbacks Series

Haftar's fighters have suffered a series of setbacks in recent weeks in their yearlong campaign to capture Tripoli, with pro-GNA forces driving them out of two major coastal cities west of the capital.

The LNA's military defeats coincided with Turkey's entry into the conflict and the use of armed drones targeting Haftar's troops and supply lines.

The GNA rejected Haftar's unilateral call for a ceasefire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan for fear that he would use the truce as an opportunity to regroup.

Last month, the United Nations, the European Union and several countries called on the sides of the Libyan war to lay down their weapons during Ramadan.

Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was later killed.

For years, the country has been divided between rival administrations in the east and west, each supported by armed groups supported by a number of foreign powers.

This week, the UN again alarmed that ordinary Libyans are suffering an increasingly deadly attack by forces from the east, under the command of Haftar.

The fighting killed hundreds of civilians and displaced more than 150,000, threatening to lead Libya to a major conflagration on the scale of the 2011 uprising.

SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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