A series of aerial raids by renegade Libyan general Khalifa Haftar’s so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) has killed at least four people and wounded 20 others in Libya’s capital, Tripoli.
The internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), which is seated in Tripoli, said on Sunday that the casualties had been caused by airstrikes that targeted residential neighborhoods in Tripoli the night before.
Tripoli residents said they heard the roar of airplanes and heavy explosions between 11:00 p.m. and midnight local time.
Amin al-Hachemi, a spokesman for the GNA’s Healthy Ministry, warned that the death toll could increase “in the coming hours.”
A pro-GNA military source told AFP the victims were civilians. “Most of the strikes hit areas in the [residential] district of Abou Slim... None hit military targets,” the source said.
Mohanad Younes, a GNA spokesman, accused Haftar of using foreign planes to carry out the airstrikes. “This criminal conceals his failures and those of his soldiers at the gates of Tripoli by resorting to foreign aviation to hit unarmed civilians in the city,” Younes wrote on a Facebook page.
The GNA, while internationally recognized, has been unable to exercise state powers over the entire Libyan territory, where militia groups have been active since an uprising against the then-dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Another major power faction that lays a claim to power is based in the city of Tobruk, in Libya’s east. It has its own quasi-army, led by the self-styled Haftar.
The general is supported by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt. He launched a deadly campaign to invade and conquer Tripoli on April 4, in what seems to be an attempt to unseat the GNA. Fierce fighting has been ongoing on the southern edges of the capital since then, as armed forces and militia loyal to the GNA have been fighting back.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has recently said that intensified fighting for control of Tripoli was turning the densely-populated residential areas of Tripoli into “battlefields.”
According to a toll released Wednesday by the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 278 people have been killed and more than 1,300 wounded in the clashes since the offensive began. Over 35,000 people have been forced to leave their homes, according to the United Nations.