Haftar's Army Accuses GNA of Shelling Civilians Outside Tripoli as EU Renews Call for Ceasefire
11:03 GMT 25.04.2020(updated 11:11 GMT 25.04.2020)
It's been over a year since the Tobruk government-backed forces of the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Marshal Khalifa Haftar began their offensive on the Government of National Accord (GNA) capital, with the civil war entering a new phase in January when Turkey sent troops to the country to shore up the GNA's defence of Tripoli.
The Libyan National Army has accused the Government of National Accord of carrying out a massed rocket attack on the town of Tarhuna, about 65km southeast of Tripoli on Friday night, alleging that nearly to two dozen shells hit civilian-populated areas.
"Tarhuna was subjected to a rocket attack...Over 20 rockets were fired, and these fell in residential areas," Ahmed Al-Mismari, a spokesman for the LNA, said Saturday morning.
The spokesman said the extent of the damage from the strikes has yet to be determined, but warned that LNA forces are "prepared to respond" to the attack.
Fighting for Tarhuna began late last week after the GNA regained control of Libya's border with Tunisia. On Wednesday, the LNA reported that all GNA attacks on the strategic town had been repelled to date. LNA control of the area and efforts to make a push for the coast risk splitting the GNA-controlled portions of Libya into two pockets, with Tripoli and other coastal cities to the west and Misrata and the area surrounding it to the east.
EU Ministers Call for Ceasefire
Also on Saturday, the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Italy and the European Union issued a joint statement demanding an immediate humanitarian truce in Libya, and calling on both sides to agree to fresh peace talks.
"We call on the Libyan actors to get inspired by the spirit of the Holy Ramadan, engage in resuming talks for a genuine ceasefire," the statement signed by the foreign ministers urges, according to Reuters.
Fighting in the country has escalated despite calls by the United Nations and others to establish a truce amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In January, an international conference on Libya took place in Berlin, with Russia, the US, the EU, Turkey, Egypt and others attempting to press the GNA and LNA to reach a lasting ceasefire, while agreeing to the need to keep third parties out of the conflict.
Nine Years of War and Instability
Known for its vast oil reserves, and once considered one of the wealthiest, most developed and stable countries in Africa, Libya quickly collapsed into a failed state after a 2011 uprising by NATO-backed militants and the toppling of longtime Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. After that, the North African nation was divided among warring militants, with terrorist groups including al-Qaeda* and Daesh (ISIS)* establishing a major presence in the country. The country also became a haven for human smugglers, who have used the country's ports to smuggle people from across the continent into Europe.
In recent years, as the Tobruk-based government-backed LNA and the GNA consolidated their positions as the two main political and military blocs fighting for control of Libya, world powers have supplied both sides with military equipment. The LNA began its Tripoli offensive in April 2019. In January 2020, the Turkish government took the next step, deploying a limited contingent of combat troops to the country shore up the GNA amid the LNA's Tripoli offensive.
* Terrorist groups outlawed in Russia and many other countries.
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