The World Health Organization (WHO) reported on 23 April that fighting in Tripoli has killed 264 people so far this month, including at least 21 civilians. According to Al Jazeera, WHO medical and surgical teams have been dispatched to treat the additional 1,266 people wounded by the conflict. The fighting occurred around a former international airport in the southern part of the country, according to Reuters, and then spread into the country’s capital city, Tripoli. The conflict was mainly between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), an interim government established by the United Nations (UN).
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric noted that civilian casualties are on the rise, and expressed concern over future humanitarian efforts, saying, “Moving civilians out of conflict-affected areas remains a challenge, with nearly all main roads reportedly blocked and there being a high risk of being hit in crossfire.” The EU raised the possibility of continued conflict in Libya spilling into terrorism abroad, with diplomat Federica Mogherini stating, “The military attack launched by the LNA on Tripoli and the subsequent escalation in and around the capital are endangering civilians, including migrants and refugees, and disrupting the UN-led political process, with the risk of serious consequences for Libya and the wider region, including the terrorist threat.”
Violence in the country has been fueled by international support and division, largely stemming from economic interests within the country. Reuters reported that France had previously supported the LNA in order to protect their oil assets in Libya, while Italy, another country with large oil holdings in the country, expressed support for the GNA. The Middle East Monitor reports that France previously held peace talks between the leaders of the GNA and LNA, where they agreed to hold elections in early December 2018. Although these elections never happened, France applauded the LNA’s “great progress” in southern Libya. However, violence such as that which has been seen in Tripoli has caused a conflict without a foreseeable end. Foreign intervention continues to contribute to the complexity and longevity of the fighting as both sides find support in strong foreign allies.
Fighting in Tripoli began on 4 April, when Khalifa Hafta, a military leader of the LNA, launched an offensive to take the city from the GNA. These two groups rose to power after the ousting of dictator Muammar Gaddafi as part of the Arab Spring in 2011. Other unidentified groups have also engaged in violence in the country. Reuters reported that the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for some of the violence last week. According to the Associated Press, the LNA now controls much of southern Libya, including two major oil fields. The UN reported that over 32,000 people have been displaced due to the conflict.
According to the Associated Press, the fighting has caused the UN to suspend their attempts to hold peace talks that were meant to be scheduled for mid-April. Britain is responsible for drafting the legislation regarding the ceasefire, but the Associated Press reported that there has been some resistance by the United States and Russia. In the meantime, Al Jazeera reports that the GNA will be seeking the prosecution of Haftar and six of his officers in the International Criminal Court.