Fighting between rival groups in Libya‘s capital has killed at least 96 people since August 26, with civilians among the casualties, authorities have said.
Libya’s Tripoli-based Ministry of Health, in a statement on Friday, said 11 people, including five civilians, were killed on Thursday night as battles raged between militias aligned to the UN-backed government and from two nearby towns.
A resident told the DPA news agency that some families were trapped in their homes due to the heavy exchange of fire while some refused to leave due to fears of looting.
Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed, reporting from Tripoli, said the sound of gunfire echoed across “many parts of the capital” on Friday with aid agencies fearing for the civilians stranded by the violence.
“Aid agencies have been trying to reach out to families stuck in areas in or near the fighting,” he said, adding that the clashes caused lasting damage to a power plant with several areas in the capital suffering from power cuts.
Fighting has mainly taken place in the southern Salah al-Din district and along the road leading to Tripoli airport, which has been closed for years.
The fighting violated a September 4 UN-brokered ceasefire deal and underscores Libya’s lingering lawlessness since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.
“The is the third time the UN-brokered ceasefire agreement has been breached with each side accusing the other of violating the terms of the agreement,” said Abdelwahed.
‘Expelling criminals and outsiders’
Tripoli-based militias loyal to the internationally recognised government say the fighting is aimed at expelling “criminals and outsiders” from the cities of Tarhouna and Misrata, Abdelwahed said.
“Meanwhile, the Seventh Infantry Brigade from the town of Tarhouna and its allies from Misrata say they are trying to rid the capital of militias that are blackmailing state institutions and imposing royalty fees on banks,” he added.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has described the situation in the north African country as “desperate”, with the fighting, collapsed economy and destruction of infrastructure leaving hundreds of thousands of people “increasingly vulnerable”.
“Seven years of war in Libya has driven over 500,000 people to flee their homes,” the ICRC said in a tweet.
“For Libyans trying to return home, there’s not always much to return to. Houses, schools are often destroyed completely.”
The group also cited the sabotaging of health facilities, water and electricity supplies, as well as the dangers of unexploded remnants.