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Libya’s Derna suffers as Haftar’s LNA tightens siege on city

Members of the self-styled Libyan National Army, loyal to the country's east strongman Khalifa Haftar, ride in and atop an armored vehicle in the eastern city of Benghazi on July 27, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The Libyan National Army (LNA), a militia group led by General Khalifa Haftar, has tightened a crippling siege on the northeastern city of Derna as the renegade military strongman seeks the permanent ouster of rival militia from the region he controls in eastern Libya.

Residents of Derna said Monday that a decision by Haftar last week to tighten the long-standing siege on the city has made their life extremely difficult.

“The situation is extremely bad. Everything is stopped, the supplies are depleted and nothing is getting into the city,” one resident said, adding, “There is a total blockade with no entry or exit. They only allow you to leave as a displaced person.”

The siege around Derna was reinforced after militiamen from the Derna Mujahideen Shura Council (DMSC), which controls the city on the Mediterranean, shot down an LNA fighter jet at the end of July. The pilot of the jet was killed in the incident.

Haftar, a former general under slain dictator Muammar Gaddafi, has been backed by countries like Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in his quest for ultimate power in Libya.

Last month, he announced victory against a rival coalition of militants in Benghazi, which lies around 350 kilometers from Derna.

The victory, which came after a three-year military campaign, effectively elevated the position of Haftar and the LNA in talks with Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA).

The LNA, which is allied with a parliament and government in the eastern Libya, has refused to endorse the GNA since it was established with the United Nations backing in 2015.

However, Haftar and GNA heads met for talks in Paris in late July amid efforts to broker a peace settlement for Libya.  

French President Emmanuel Macron (C) looks on as Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj (L) shakes hands with General Khalifa Haftar, commander in the Libyan National Army (LNA), after talks aimed at easing tensions in Libya, in La Celle-Saint-Cloud, near Paris, on July 25, 2017. (photo by AFP)

The UN has expressed deep concerns about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Derna. The GNA, which is based in Tripoli in Libya’s west, has called on all sides to "facilitate ways to provide for all the needs of the citizens."

A resident of Derna said Monday that there was an acute shortage of medicine in the city, adding that most bakeries had closed because of a shortage of fuel and that petrol stations remained shut for eight months.

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