The bombardment of Libya‘s capital Tripoli intensified on Friday, residents said, forcing the evacuation of some patients from a hospital near the capital’s only functioning airport.
Residents said the shelling was among the hardest since the two rival governments said they had agreed to a ceasefire in January, as blasts of artillery echoed in the city centre and black smoke billowed near Mitiga airport that is held by the government.
The fighting, between the Libyan National Army (LNA) of eastern-based leader Khalifa Haftar and the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli, came as the United Nations tried to hold peace talks in Geneva.
The town council of Abu Salim, a Tripoli neighbourhood, posted pictures of damaged houses on Facebook, saying a woman and child had been taken to hospital.
Flights were also suspended once again on Friday at the only functioning airport in Libya’s capital following the rocket attacks.
Shelling of Mitiga airport has forced a suspension of flights for hours at a time on consecutive days this week and new damage to a hangar was visible after Friday’s bombardment.
The airport has come under frequent attacks by forces loyal to Haftar this month. It was hit by Grad missiles, GNA said in a statement on Thursday, in this week’s third attack by the Haftar militias.
Since the overthrow of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: Haftar supported mainly by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and the GNA which enjoys UN and international recognition.
The GNA is also supported by Turkey and allied fighters it has brought from Syria.
Meanwhile, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) strongly condemned the violence in Tripoli and repeated bombings over Mitiga airport in a statement on Friday.
In its statement, the UNSMIL said that “the bombing of civilian neighbourhoods in Tripoli – which may amount to war crimes – aims not only to intimidate the [Libyan] people, but obstruct any potential agreement among them.”
It added that all countries which participated in peace talks for the war-torn country, must “abide by their pledges, especially by holding accountable those who obstruct the efforts to end the fighting in Libya”.
Ghassan Salame, head of the UN Mission in Libya, said in an address in Geneva that he was concerned about the situation in Libya and Syria alike, adding that the two conflicts had overarching parallels.
“I do believe that there are players who are now very active in both Syria and Libya. And I do believe that there is a mutual integration between the two conflicts that is not favourable for peace in either one,” Salame said.
He also condemned the violence in Tripoli over the last 24 hours, referring to it as a significant breach to the truce.
On Monday, representatives from Libya’s warring sides suspended their participation in UN-sponsored peace talks aimed at bringing an end to more than 10 months of fighting.
The LNA launched a military offensive in April last year aimed at seizing Tripoli. It has so far failed to breach the GNA’s defences amid fierce fighting that has killed more than 1,000 people and displaced some 140,000.